An inspiring journey to graduation

A dedicated student has gone on to obtain his doctorate after battling cancer during his time studying at the University of Leicester.

On 13 February 2013, lawyer and mature student Haward was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, and told that his chances of being alive in 2018 stood at 60-70%.

On Friday 20 July, he will be presented with his PhD in Law from the University of Leicester, after being given his five year all-clear in February of this year.

Haward studied Law at the University of Dundee, followed by his MPhil at Leicester. During his graduation ceremony this week, he will be wearing the same flared, velvet dinner suit he wore when receiving his degree decades ago.

He is now retired, after 35 years in commercial and contracts and process roles with various companies including Shell, Siemens, GEC and British Shipbuilders working in Ardersier, Port Glasgow, Gateshead, Leicester, Lincoln, Duisburg, The Hague and Kuala Lumpur.

In 2013, whilst in Kuala Lumpur, Haward was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. Oesophageal cancer is a type of cancer affecting the oesophagus (gullet) – the long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach.

Haward said: “Oesophageal cancer is an aggressive and frightening cancer, and the sixth most common cancer in the UK. 85% of those diagnosed on the 13 February 2013 have now passed away, and those of us who have survived suffer the after effects of an extensive re-plumbing exercise, and struggle with diet and digestion.”

Following diagnosis, Haward had five weeks of chemotherapy and radio therapy in Kuala Lumpur, and returned to the UK for surgery. After successful recovery, Haward travelled around the world, and continued to study for his PhD at the University of Leicester.

He said: “When I received my five year all-clear letter the feeling was one of relief, tinged by the recognition that many have not been so fortunate. I met many of these people through patient support work over the last four years.”

Secretary of The Oesophageal Patients Association (OPA) for four years, Haward has been involved with a variety of support groups. “The Leicester group is run by Professor David Bowrey,” he said.  “It’s a lovely group which meets quarterly, and allows us to exchange experiences and talk about our individual problems. Other groups are run by the venerable and great charity, the Oesophageal Patients Association, set up by David Kirby OBE over 30 years ago. David may be the world's longest lasting survivor of this operation and his legacy is in thriving patient support groups.”

He added: “I am in very good shape and happy still to be here. One side effect of my cancer is that I now fit the flared, velvet, dinner suit in which I graduated back in 1981- so it will be making a reappearance at this graduation ceremony!

“The friends I have made amongst academics and students are the highlight of my time at Leicester, and I hope that I have helped others.”

Professor François du Bois, Head of Leicester Law School, said: “Supervising Haward’s PhD studies has been an inspiring experience. I learnt much from him: not only about what the users of contract law think of it, the topic of his research, but also about living a full life. Long may his association with Leicester Law School continue.”