An Ulsterman given less than a year to live after being diagnosed with lung cancer has spoken of his renewed hope of long-term recovery after doctors removed one of his lungs.
I was given 12 months to live unless doctors removed a lung
Isaac Keery (62) from Lisburn, opened his heart about the trauma of his diagnosis in April - the shock of which saw his smoking habit jump from 40 roll-ups a day to 75.
But the married father-of-three is now recovering after getting one of his lungs removed and enduring an intensive course of chemotherapy. And he's also staying off the tobacco.
The retired roofing contractor spoke out at the start of Lung Cancer Awareness Month to highlight the warning signs of the disease which kills around 800 men and women in Northern Ireland every year.
He was playing with his young grandson in his Gravel Hill Road home last April when he felt a stabbing pain.
"We were acting the cod and I started getting pains in my chest and down my back. It was like someone sticking a knife in my back, " he said.
Isaac was seen by his GP the next day and was immediately referred to Lagan Valley Hospital for further investigation.
His subsequent diagnosis with lung cancer came as a bolt from the blue.
"I smoked 40 roll-ups a day. When I got the news, that jumped to 75. I was having a cigarette every six minutes, constantly either smoking or rolling.
"I'd always considered myself a brave and fit man. I ran my own business. I've always been the kind of person who doesn't walk anywhere, I run. It was a complete shock to me."
Doctors gave Isaac less than a year to live unless he had the afflicted lung removed.
"That was when it really hit me and I broke down big-style. Unless you've had cancer no-one can understand how that feels. I had no idea how low I would feel."
After his lung was removed, Isaac underwent a course of chemotherapy which he said was so gruelling he felt suicidal at times. He paid tribute to nurses from Macmillan Cancer Support who " were with me every step of the way".
He said: "If I hadn't had the help of the Macmillan nurses I don't know what I would have done. I wouldn't be here only for them. When I think about their help and kindness, it brings a tear to my eye," he said.
"They were with me the whole way, from meetings with doctors to just a relaxing cup of tea with them. It was like having an angel by my side."
Now recovered, Isaac and his wife Jean have a positive outlook on the future despite the changes to his life.
"I had to give up the business because I couldn't climb a ladder. I'm very short of breath now with the reduced lung capacity so I can't do some of the things I used to love, like walking the dog morning and night," he said.
" I have three beautiful grandchildren. I'm delighted to get the chance to see them grow up. I'm determined to be around to see them get married. One of them is only three so I intend to be here for a while."
He urged anyone with symptoms to visit their GP.
"They may end up not being cancer-related, but remember not to feel silly asking your doctor to have a check if you have concerns. From personal experience, the sooner you can have a chat to your GP the better," he added.