Cancer Warrior Derrick finds true love

DERRICK Evans, founder of Stalybridge-based charity Cancer Warriors, described it a “true love story” following his delayed wedding to Cassandra.

The 45-year-old from Mossley, despite battling cancer for a fifth time in 14 years, believes the illness has enhanced his life.

And despite the challenges and dark periods, Derrick said: “I had to get cancer to be on this journey.

“Had it not been for cancer, I would not have met Cassie and our paths would not have crossed.”

Derrick and Cassandra with children Ben and Paige

But true love did not run smoothly when Derrick and Cassie came to arranging their wedding during the Covid-19 pandemic causing a delay of almost one year.

When it finally recently happened after three earlier postponements through coronavirus and Derrick’s health issues, it was only permitted through special circumstances.

And then it was a small and intimate gathering at Dukinfield Registry Office for Derrick, his son Ben, Cassie and her daughter Paige.

A more formal event is being planned for wider family and friends once the final restrictions are lifted.

The date had originally been set for July 2020 with a function for 150 booked at Smokies.

It was called off and rearranged for September only for a combination of Covid and Derrick having a major heart attack causing it to be called off for a second time quickly followed by a third in October.

Derrick said: “It cause a lot of stress having to keep postponing the wedding.

“It was great for it to finally go ahead at the fourth time and the registry office staff were amazing.”

Derrick and Cassie are planning a second big day, a breakfast for immediate family at the Rising Moon, Matley Lane, blessing and evening reception at San Rocco, Cockbrook.

Derrick Evans and Cassandra

It was in 2007 that Derrick was first diagnosed with cancer and prompted him to launch Derk’s Army 200708447 in March 2011 to give something back to those who had helped him.

The number 200708447 denotes the year and month he was diagnosed with cancer and the last three digits denotes he was the 447th person diagnosed that month.

And the charity set-up by Derrick, once a professional photographer, to say thank you by fundraising for The Christie and Macmillan Cancer Support, recently celebrated its 10th birthday having become Cancer Warriors in 2016.

Cancer Warriors opened its current base on Melbourne Street, Stalybridge, in 2018 and Derrick still believes there is work to be done as he dreams of establishing a larger base, a one-stop shop to support not only cancer victims but their families.

Not only is Derrick battling cancer for a fifth time but has also had a heart attack, double heart by-pass and valve replacement, pneumonia twice and stem cell transplant which was only a partial success.

Derrick, who is nicknamed ITK (impossible to kill), said: “I was given eight weeks to live, and that was two years ago.

“I am sure there is a purpose for me to be kept on Earth to fulfil.”

Derrick admitted he finds it hard to reconcile he has had cancer five times and is still alive while others have it once and died which makes him live with survivor’s guilt.

He said: “I have had serious mental health problems and still do. I have had cancer for such a long time. It is not like having flu and you are back on your feet in a couple of weeks.

“I have come to terms with death and am able to reflect on it. When you know you only have a limited time left, you don’t take every day as a given.

“You have got to make the most of every day.”

Derrick, who ignored a cancerous lump on his neck for two years, implores others not to do likewise, especially as this time when many are frightened to go to doctors because of Covid-19.

He said: “It is a time-bomb and I know people who are on their death beds because of Covid.

“If you find anything unusual, go to your doctor and don’t be scared.

“I left the lump in my neck, my initial cancer, two years. If I had gone straightaway as soon as I found it, I would probably not be in the position I find myself today.”

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