Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's 91-year-old lung cancer survivor

By Lisa Smith

He had a lung removed over a quarter of a century ago after he was diagnosed with cancer but Herbie Archer has not allowed that to slow him down.

Mr Archer was 65 when doctors told him he had lung cancer but despite the radical surgery he underwent to beat the deadly disease, he continued to work on his farm for another 24 years.

Even today, aged 91 and one of the oldest cancer survivors in Northern Ireland, he remains fit and alert — a true inspiration to anyone fighting the disease.

Mr Archer first became ill when disembarking a flight from Hong Kong in 1984 and was forced to lie down because he felt so weak.

After tests by his GP and doctors at Forster Green Hospital in Belfast he was told he had lung cancer and that he should have his left lung removed.

“I never questioned them once,” he explained. “When the surgeons came around, ‘it’s like this’, says I, ‘I will put myself in the Lord’s hands and in your hands and whatever you want to do then I’m happy’, and I never regretted getting the lung out.

“A neighbour of mine was in hospital at the same time as me with lung cancer. I was supposed to get treatment and he was supposed to get surgery. I ended up with the operation and he got the treatment. I’m alive and he isn’t.

“I’ve had a great life. I’ve had setbacks and sickness of one sort or another, but I’ve been happy.”

He continued: “I woke up after the operation and they told me they had taken out the whole lung and surrounding glands as well.

“I rested for maybe a year after the operation, but after that I was so well that I was fit to do anything

I was doing prior to the operation. It seemed to me to be a very good success.

“I retired a few years ago because I got a chronic chest infection but I still spend most of my time in the garden and grow all my own vegetables. My granddaughter is teaching me to play the fiddle as well. I like the challenge.

“I also go to fundraising events for Cancer Research UK. I think it is very important to support that.”

Asked how he defied the odds, Mr Archer said: “No-one ever mentioned I might not survive and I never thought that way.

“I have no secret, I take one day at a time and I enjoy myself. I was also a fairly heavy smoker

and I smoked right up to the last night before the operation.

“I remember when I was in the Royal (Victoria Hospital, Belfast) I went out on the veranda and smoked my last cigarette and I have never smoked since then. I didn’t really find it hard to give up. I was just thankful to be through the operation and be doing well. I was determined to stop because in my mind it was the smoking that was causing the trouble.”

Dr Dean Fennell, a lung cancer specialist and Cancer Research UK scientist, said: “Our objective is for patients to live their lives out as fully as possible but to be 91 and to have beaten lung cancer so long ago is a fantastic example of survivorship.”

Belfast Telegraph


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