Staffordshire family launch World Cancer Day appeal in memory of father

They were just days from beginning a dream life in America when Becky Moorhouse's family received the devastating news that her husband's skin cancer had returned.

Becky Moorhouse with her children Oscar and Connie  wearing wristbands to mark World Cancer Day on February 4 in memory of the children’s dad Roger Moorhouse
Becky Moorhouse with her children Oscar and Connie wearing wristbands to mark World Cancer Day on February 4 in memory of the children’s dad Roger Moorhouse

Their belongings were already packed onto a container ship bound for the USA in June 2019 when Roger was told his melanoma was back and spreading.

With their plans shattered, the couple pinned all their hopes on new drug therapies but months of battling tough treatments took their toll and the father of two died in July last year, aged just 42.

Now Becky and the couple’s two children, nine-year-old Oscar and eight-year-old Connie, who live in Stafford, are appealing for help to fund vital research in his memory.

They calling on people to raise money for life-saving research by donating and wearing a Cancer Research UK Unity Band to mark World Cancer Day on Friday, February 4. For Cancer Research UK, the awareness day takes on extra significance this year, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Roger with Becky, Oscar and Connie

“Rog knew that clinical trials were his last hope so he’d been talking to Cancer Research UK about campaigning for more funding and awareness,” says Becky.

“He was so brave, determined and willing to do anything. He never said no to any procedures - he wanted everything they could throw at him.

“Rog felt very lucky to have these options, as immunotherapy wasn’t around 10 years ago, so they gave him more time with us.

“We just lived in hope, wanting just one thing to work but unfortunately treatments that worked for some people just didn’t work for him.

“Research has come a long way in the last 20 years but there’s still so much we don’t know that we want to do everything we can as a family to make a difference in his memory. It’s what he would have wanted and that’s why World Cancer Day is so important to us this year.”

Speaking to Cancer Research UK on a video call in January last year, Roger described the heart-wrenching moment he got the call to say his cancer was back in September 2020.

After a rollercoaster few years with Roger in and out of treatment, the family had finally been due to emigrate to Buffalo in New York State just a few days later.

“The kids had finished school for good and we were walking along the beach front in Devon saying goodbye to our favourite UK holiday spot,” said Roger. “The treatment had been working so I was only expecting routine scan results but as soon as I realised it was bad news, I collapsed to my knees. Our whole world just fell to pieces. America, new house, our dream – none of that mattered anymore. All that mattered was my survival and being around to see my kids grow up.”

In the video Roger - former Chief Engineer at Moog Aircraft Group in Wolverhampton - speaks passionately about the need for vital research to continue as well as the importance of raising awareness of melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer.

“When you tell people that you have skin cancer, they think you can just cut it out and be on your way,” said Roger. “But they don’t understand that it can spread. Metastatic melanoma is deadly.”

Roger was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 2017 after noticing an itchy mole on his back. By the time he was offered a top job in America in December 2018, he thought his cancer treatment was far behind him.

The family excitedly made plans to emigrate the following summer, finding the children school places and even beginning a new house build. But, by April 2019, Roger began experiencing severe pain in his abdomen. It didn’t occur to him that the pain could be connected to the cancerous mole he’d had cut out two years before.

After surgery to remove the new lump at Nuffield Hospital in Tettenhall, Roger was given the devastating news that the cancer had spread. Instead of flying to New York as planned, Roger’s family had to move in with his parents in Wolverhampton as he prepared for more surgery and to start a year of immunotherapy treatment at The Christie in Manchester.

By December 2019, Roger discovered another lump in his abdomen showing his cancer was fighting back. Not to be put off, Roger endured yet another major operation and four weeks of radiotherapy to mop up any stray cells. By June 2020 - after six months of clear scans - the family’s plans to move to America were back on.

Roger with the family's sausage dogs

“The only reason we didn’t move to the States was because we couldn't physically get in the country,” said Becky. “We were part way through having our house built but, due to Covid, we were literally waiting for the borders to be reopened.

“When Rog got the scan results a few days before our flights it was a massive shock but we had to make that decision to call off the immigration. We needed our medical team at Christies in Manchester. Telling the kids was really tough but they knew that Daddy was poorly and needed special medicine to make him better.

“It took months to get things sorted while Roger was in and out of hospital but we moved into a new house in Stafford in March last year and began to get some normality back. He wanted to find us a house and settle back in the UK just in case things didn't go the way we wanted them to.

“Roger had his hopes pinned on new drug therapies but each time he tried something, it just didn't work and he’d have to start again with something else. We were running out of options. He held out and fought right to the very end but eventually it was too much, even for someone as strong as him.”

In the West Midlands and Staffordshire region, around 36,800 people are diagnosed with cancer every year.

Becky added: “Wearing a unity band is such a simple way to show solidarity with people affected by the disease, whilst also raising vital funds for new discoveries and breakthroughs that will help save people like Rog in future. After everything we’ve been through, this is one small but positive thing we can do together in his memory.”

The family are appealing for help to fund vital research in Roger's memory

Available in three different colours – pink, navy and blue – a Unity Band can be worn in memory of a loved one, to celebrate people who’ve overcome cancer or in support of those going through treatment.

Paula Young, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the West Midlands, said: “As we mark our anniversary this World Cancer Day, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to Becky, Oscar and Connie.

“Because of supporters like these, we’ve come a really long way but Roger’s story shows just how far we have yet to go.”

Unity Bands are available in Cancer Research UK shops and online at cruk.org/worldcancerday for a suggested donation of £2.

“One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime, and so we will never stop striving to create better treatments for tomorrow. That’s why we hope everyone will wear a Unity Band with pride - knowing they are helping to save and improve lives for generations to come. We've come so far. And we will go much further. Together we will beat cancer," added Paula.

Cancer Research UK spent over £10 million in the West Midlands last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

While the charity was formed in 2002, its history dates back to the founding of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in 1902. Its work has been at the heart of some of the biggest developments in cancer, from radiotherapy to some of the most used cancer drugs around the world today.

The cutting-edge research it funds has helped lead to more people than ever in the UK surviving their cancer for 10 years or more.

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