A former teacher who watched his own father die of asbestos-related cancer has spoken of his devastation at finding out he has the same disease.
Adrian Starr was diagnosed with the terminal illness, mesothelioma, in October last year and says his only hope now is if medics are able to find a cure.
The 67-year-old, a dad of two and granddad of three, is a retired teacher who worked at various schools across the north east, but believes his exposure to the deadly fibres may date back as far as the 1970s when he worked for one summer at the same paper mill as his father in Kent.
Adrian, from Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear, said: “I was only there for a short period, but that is where my father was exposed to asbestos dust.
“He was a maintenance engineer and worked in dirty, dusty areas where pipes lagged with asbestos ran across the ceiling and underneath the floor.
“I worked in a different area, but I remember often having tea from a flask we’d brought from home sitting with my dad at his end of the factory.
“I don’t know whether the damage was done there or at one of the schools where I worked.”
Adrian spent the summer of 1970 at Albert E Reed and Company Limited in Aylesford, Maidstone, while on holiday from doing a geography degree at Newcastle University.
He went on to work as a teacher at King’s School in Tynemouth from 1972 to 1981, Hirst High School in Ashington until 2003, at schools in the Byker area until 2005 and Princess Louise School in Blyth until 2008.
Adrian said he had never heard of mesothelioma until dad Reginald was diagnosed. He died, aged 76, in 1981.
He added: “I first began to feel ill in July last year. I was playing tennis with my grandson and I was so out of breath that I couldn’t run around.
“I’d always been an active sort of person and I’d never smoked, but I found I just couldn’t do the same things I used to. I couldn’t even walk up a hill without having to stop.
“At first I just assumed it was my age and I pushed it to the back of my mind, but by the end of July it had become so bad that I went to see the doctor.
“Things moved very quickly from that date and the diagnosis was finally made in October.”
Adrian, who is currently having chemotherapy, said: “I do feel a sense of anger because the dangers of asbestos have been known since the 1950s, yet it’s only in the last 20 years or so that Britain has got round to banning its use and in certain countries it’s still being mined.
“Treatment has improved so much. It was too late for my dad, but now I am having chemotherapy with two of the most advanced drugs in the cancer world. That’s the only thing I have got to hang on to.”
He is now appealing for former colleagues who remember working with him in areas where they may have been exposed to asbestos to get in touch with his lawyer, David Thompson, of Newcastle-based Slater and Gordon.
Mr Thompson said: “Mesothelioma is a terrible disease for which sadly there is currently no cure.
“It has come as a huge shock to Adrian and his family who now simply want to find out when and where it happened.
“It was a long time ago, but if anyone does remember working with him in areas where there may have been asbestos we would urge them to get in touch with us as soon as possible.”