Thorpe veteran owes his life to Roy Waller

An RAF veteran from Thorpe St Andrew, who is recovering from bowel cancer, today told how he owed his life to the late Norfolk broadcaster Roy Waller.

David Freeman, 72, was one of about 23,000 servicemen to take part in the nuclear tests on Christmas Island in the South Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s and is convinced the tests ruined his health and that of his family.

In May last year, he had part of his small intestine removed after he was diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

But the disease was only discovered when Mr Freeman went to be checked out after hearing a radio appeal about bowel cancer by Mr Waller before the popular broadcaster himself died in July last year, aged 69, following a liver illness.

Mr Freeman, whose own mother died from bowel cancer aged just 47, said: 'I owe my life to Roy even though he lost his. He was doing a campaign about bowel cancer on behalf of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and, as part of that, a telephone number came up which I rang.'

Mr Freeman said he was then sent a test which he then completed and sent off before being asked to see a specialist at the N&N, who confirmed the diagnosis and operated on him.

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight from Birbeck Way, underwent an operation at the hospital in May last year and has recently had the all clear following his first six-month check up.

Most Read

Mr Freeman said if it was not for Mr Waller and his broadcast on Radio Norfolk, then he might not be here now to tell the tale or let other people know just how important it is to get themselves tested.

He said: 'I miss poor old Roy, he actually saved my life. He was a well known character right across Norfolk and they (the hospital) hired him to do this campaign on their behalf and he did a very good job.

'Even though my mother died of it, I hadn't thought about it. It hadn't been prominent until then - it's something you don't think about. I didn't have the symptoms you might expect, but once I did the test and it came back, they said I would have to go into hospital.'.

Mr Freeman said early detection of the disease was vital and urged other people aged over 60 to get themselves checked out as early as possible.

He said: 'It's absolutely vital that both males and females get checked up - I can't stress enough how important it is to have these tests. Cancer is still a frightening word to a lot of people, but if it is caught quickly, it can be cured.'

Mr Waller, who had commentated for Radio Norfolk on Norwich City for more than 25 years, had helped the N&N publicise the bowel cancer screening programme since it was launched in 2006, but died in July last year.

Dr Richard Tighe, consultant gastroenterologist at the N&N, said: 'Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK, but 90 per cent of people can survive if it's caught early enough.

'The bowel cancer screening test is available to everyone over 60 – it is a simple test carried out in the privacy of your own home which can save lives and make a real difference to individuals and their families. We would urge everyone to take up this opportunity.'

A new government TV, radio and newspaper advertising campaign to urge people to check themselves for signs of bowel cancer was launched last month.

The Be Clear on Cancer initiative, supported by �1.75m funding, encourages people to talk to GPs if they recognise specific signs and symptoms of bowel cancer - blood in their stools, or looser stools for three weeks. It is being piloted in the east and south west of England before being implemented across the rest of the country.

To find out more about bowel cancer, log on to

Have you beaten cancer? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email

To find out more about what Mr Freeman experienced in the Christmas Island tests, see Monday's Evening News.