Three years ago, Nathan Sandy from North Shields was training for the Edinburgh Marathon when he was shocked to receive an incredibly rare throat cancer diagnosis that ultimately led to a full laryngectomy and the loss of his voice.

Only the 41st person in the world with this recorded throat cancer diagnosis (T3 NO synovial carcinoma pyriform fossa), Nathan underwent extensive, ground-breaking treatment at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital and, thankfully, he has now been given the all clear.

The 42-year-old civil servant has two children, aged 5 and 8, and is married to Nicola (40), who is also a civil servant and is currently receiving treatment for breast cancer.

The couple have been facing cancer together and are grateful for the specialist treatment, dedication and care they have both received from Newcastle Hospitals.

To say thank you, and to help others facing cancer in the future, Nathan is now taking on his biggest ever running challenge to raise funds for our Foundation, part of Newcastle Hospitals Charity.

On Saturday (15 June) he will be attempting The Wall, a 70mile ultramarathon starting at Carlisle Castle and finishing on Gateshead’s Quayside. It is a demanding physical challenge that is even more incredible because Nathan has had a muscle removed from his thigh to rebuild his throat pipe.

Nathan says: “Before my diagnosis, I was doing one marathon a year and had completed Paris, London and Rome. I’d also completed one ultra marathon but that was half the length of The Wall, so this is a much bigger challenge for me.

“I have so many people, in so many different departments at Newcastle Hospitals to thank for the fact I’m still here today. Both Nicola and I are hugely grateful, not just for our treatment, but for the wonderful care everyone has shown us. Fundraising for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and supporting groundbreaking cancer treatment here in the North East feels like a good way of showing my gratitude for that care.”

In 2021, Nathan found he was having trouble breathing and was prescribed antibiotics to treat a suspected cyst. However, he continued to have breathing issues and began losing weight, which he had initially put down to the marathon training. He felt like he had a lump in his throat and an endoscopy subsequently revealed cancer.

Initially, Nathan had a small operation to ‘shave the lump,’ which was sitting on top of his voice box, a temporary measure while his medical team decided on the best long-term course of action.

In June 2022, Nathan had a full laryngectomy and a muscle removed from his thigh was used to rebuild his throat to enable swallowing. This involved specialist plastic surgeons and skin grafts and a valve was inserted that allowed Nathan to speak. No chemotherapy or additional treatment was required and everyone hoped that was the problem solved.

Unfortunately, a CT scan (part of regular follow up screening) revealed a local reoccurrence of the cancer (right pyriform fossa grade 3 synovial sarcoma) in April 2023 and a different surgery was required this time. Nathan had his thyroid removed as well as his newly constructed throat pipe and part of his bowel was used to recreate this. Following surgery, Nathan received six months of intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Because his throat pipe has now been reconstructed using a section of bowel, which is softer than the thigh muscle that had previously been used, Nathan is unable to speak. He communicates with Nicola via lip reading and communicates using his phone.

In August, Nathan and Nicola will have been married for a decade. Like Nathan, Nicola had successful cancer treatment and then a reoccurrence of that cancer.

Nathan adds: “It’s been cruel really. Nicola had breast cancer and then the day after she was given the all clear, I was diagnosed. After treatment I was given the all clear but mine came back and then, just as I was finishing chemo, Nicola was told her cancer had returned.

“Obviously, it’s been really hard for us both and our family. Nicola says it’s like we’ve been going around a revolving door of cancer treatment. It makes me all the more grateful for the amazing treatment we’ve had here in the North East and more determined than ever to finish The Wall for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.”

Nathan is grateful to everyone at Newcastle Hospitals and especially Dr Hamilton and the team within the Ear, Nose and Throat Department, Lynn Bolden and the Speech and Language Therapy team, and everyone on Ward 10 (recovering from surgery) and Ward 36 (intensive chemo).

To support Nathan’s fundraising, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/page/nathaniel-sandy-1708005062070?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTAAAR3PGA77unw6kbZ8qgtWBo7DpGZOc3_F6xXGx3qIZ5NgPKvJ3gxKMMxw0VA_aem_AdmCsK9gDC32S7rEwrgEgfpkcxC3E4ZqZ_ocuk4RzoblJR51Ug-OUZg2vFaZ4lq6QvBJcJPqnZ0FaybmrXBR6TVb