Henry and Tina’s story
When I was that age, I had never heard of cancer or anything like that.
Grandparents Henry and Tina from Clayton, Manchester, are helping to make smoking history by warning others, after smoking led them to a devastating battle with cancer.
Henry, his wife Tina and their five children and twelve grandchildren share a deep connection to Manchester, the city where they have spent all of their lives. Henry says “I grew up about five minutes from where I now live. Manchester and me is everything.”
Henry started smoking when he was 12. Out of curiosity he took a cigarette offered by a friend.
You think you’re missing out on something, don’t you? So, you take one, start smoking it, and next thing you know you’re hooked on it. When I was that age, I had never heard of cancer or anything like that.
It was a number of years later when smoking started to take a visible toll on the couple, with wife Tina being diagnosed firstly with COPD and then with cancer of the left and then right lungs.
“One day I got up and I could hardly breathe; I knew what was causing it.” Tina beat the cancer only for husband Henry to be diagnosed with oral cancer a few years later.
“I was having trouble with my mouth and thought it was an ulcer or something like that. Of all places, they found cancer on the tongue,” says Henry.
Surgeons at Manchester Royal Infirmary spent more than 14 hours removing his tumour and using skin from his leg to create a new artificial tongue. Following his surgery, Henry spent several weeks recovering in hospital being fed through a tube and his weight plummeted to eight stone. His daughter Vikki explains “He looked like a frail old man. He really did.”
Henry kicked the cigarettes for good on the day of his surgery and has never looked back. “I’ve never smoked since and I never will.”
Wife Tina agrees and says: “I’d give anything not to have started. Anything.”
Galvanised by her parents’ suffering, daughter Vikki has since successfully quit smoking. “Smoking was always a social thing. My sisters did it, my brothers did it. We’d have a family meal and all smoke together. But what’s happened to my parents has been the biggest wake-up call for me. Health-wise it’s just not worth it. I’ve got a daughter of 14, that’s how old I was when I stupidly had my first cigarette. And I would be absolutely devastated if my daughter started smoking.”