A head teacher who was told on his birthday he has just months to live says he has “a lot to fight for” just days before he undergoes potentially life-prolonging treatment.
Alex Moir was diagnosed by oncologists at Maidstone Hospital in August after a biopsy taken from a spot on his scalp revealed he had stage four oesophageal cancer.
Despite having the spot removed, the 47-year-old was then told the cancer had spread to his organs including his lungs, spine and liver.
It meant Alex, who was born and lives in Maidstone, had to step down from his 14-year role as head of Parkwood primary in Rainham to begin treatment.
He is now six weeks and two cycles into chemotherapy and antibody therapy in a bid to slow down the spread of the virus, and is due to start a new form of medication next Tuesday.
He is hoping the pioneering medical treatment will give him more time.
He is unsure how effective the new drugs will be, but insists he is “determined to live rather than just stay alive”.
He explained: “During the summer holidays, I found a spot or a bite on my head. Due to the fact I’m bald, that made it a lot more noticeable.
“I went to the doctor’s and got referred to a dermatologist who said it was skin cancer.
“I got it removed the day after the final day of term in July, before going to Scotland to climb mountains and feeling as fit as a fiddle.
“But when I came home I found out the biopsy results had shown it had travelled from my upper gut and metastasised.
“The clinical oncologist then told me it was stage four cancer. I had to have a CT scan a few days later to find out more.
“I was with my kids at Dreamland in Margate when I got the call telling me it was the grave situation of oesophageal cancer which had spread to just about everywhere.
“So it all happened from my birthday on August 14 to that call a week later telling me where it had spread.
“I am grateful, though, the original source was on my scalp as I probably wouldn’t have been to the doctor’s as quickly as I did, as the only other symptom I had was difficulty swallowing a little bit.
“I just know I am not going to be defined by cancer as I’m still me. I’m determined to live rather than just stay alive.”
Alex has been involved in education since 1998 and was deputy head teacher at Molehill Copse in Maidstone and Arden Junior School in Gillingham. He then became head of Parkwood in 2009, a place he has made his second home. It is a job he still holds unofficially while his therapy continues.
“At the moment I remain as head, but have obviously stepped down as it’s just not possible to run a school in these circumstances,” he added.
“I miss the staff and the children so much, and things like doing assemblies and giving the kids badges.
“Being head at Parkwood, especially for 14 years, is just the best job ever.
“It has meant the community is a big part of my life, so it’s not easy being away from that.”
Alex says his future remains uncertain, both in the immediate and long-term future.
The new drug is not funded by the NHS, which means an outlay of more than £4,500 for each treatment, which is every three weeks for up to nine cycles.
To help, a JustGiving fundraiser has been set up by his daughter Molly and his three friends, Paul, Nick and Neil.
To date, more than 700 people have raised more than £22,000 of a £50,000 target.
People can donate by clicking here.
Alex also hopes to help raise awareness about this form of cancer and hopefully help others with it in the future, if the treatment is a success.
He remains “hopeful” the drugs will allow him to spend more time with his family.
“I have been told other people in my situation have a one in five chance of living for a year, so that’s difficult to know,”he added.
“But with each of these treatments, there’s a chance I will get a little longer.
“My oncologist is fantastic and is open to new treatments.
“It may not end up working for me, but the key thing is that it is all still unknown.
“If successful, it means I will be able to carry it on without having chemotherapy in the meantime, which lasts 10 hours each session.
“The prognosis I have been told already is having months left, or under a year, but while I don’t know about the impact of this treatment, I’m still hopeful.
“In three months, I will see an indication of how four cycles of chemotherapy and two cycles of the new treatment have gone.”
Alex – who is dad to Molly, 21, Jack, 18, Violet, 14, and nine-year-old Sonny – says the diagnosis came completely out of the blue.
“The fact I was feeling as healthy as I ever had made it even more of a shock,” he continued.
“I just think nobody can ever forget the moment you’re told your diagnosis and where it’s spread.
“You then have thoughts like not being able to walk your daughters down the aisle or not becoming a grandad.
“But I obviously don’t want my children to grow up without a dad, so I have a lot to live and fight for.
“My wife, Catherine, is also my champion too.
“I’m walking every day and hoping to go to Northern Ireland in a few weeks to see the Giant’s Causeway.”
“I’m not looking to go to the moon – I want to make the most of my time and create good memories with the people I love,” he added.