At the age of 55, Gerald Manson from Wolverhampton had considered himself rather lucky in life.
Gerald Manson, a gardener from Wolverhampton, had thought his life was charmed until he found a rather nasty surprise when he lifted up his shirt at work.
“I’d never been ill a day in my life, never taken a day off sick and still had all my teeth – I always thought I was lucky!”
Having a physical vocation is what Gerald attributes his excellent health to. Since the age of 15 he has worked as a gardener/labourer, a role that often involves a lot of moving around and often long days spent outside breathing the fresh air.
“My job’s really varied, its what I love about being a gardener. One day I could be laying down a blanket of turf, the next day I could be fitting a series of garden fencing panels. I love doing DIY and gardening, so getting hired for these kinds of jobs is an absolute God send.”
After 40 years of working outside, at the age of 55 Gerald is still going although a recent run in with a melanoma did briefly stop him in his tracks:
“I’m not a small bloke, I drink a few pints each week and I probably eat a few too many chips so I suppose I’d always ran the risk of getting some kind of illness, but had always been lucky enough to avoid it. If I ever expected to get ill, it was through my bad habits rather than anything else.”
Melanoma, otherwise know as skin cancer, is one of the most common forms of cancers in the UK. Signs to look out for are any changes in colour or shape of existing moles, but for the unaware these kinds of cancer can easily go unnoticed. In Gerald’s case it took a particularly observant off-duty GP to notice that there was something the matter.
“I don’t usually take my shirt off whilst I’m working out of professional courtesy, but last summer there were a couple of scorchers that I had to work through where it truly felt like the only way to cool down. I’d been fitting some fences for a client on this particular day and assuming they’d popped out for a spell, I took the opportunity to pop my shirt off.”
Half-way through the job, Gerald was stopped by his client who had come out to offer him a drink but had been stopped in her tracks by the formations of abnormally shaped moles on his back.
“She asked me if they’d always been like that and I had to ask her what she was talking about. Don’t get me wrong I give my back a good scrubbing each night, but I never really get a good look at it. Soon she had me lie down on the floor so she could take photos to send to her colleagues. Within seconds she had replies confirming her initial theory, I had a huge collection of melanomas on my back and they needed.”
This kind of chance diagnosis does not happen very often, so Gerald can count himself lucky. Thankfully, he completed his treatment successfully and is now back where he belongs: in someone’s garden!