A chance conversation with a work colleague helped a popular Falmouth boatbuilder and former sportsman avoid what could have been a potentially life-threatening scenario - and has now led to more than £13,000 being raised for a hospital’s major fundraising campaign.

Jason Renfree, 54, who lives in Falmouth with his partner of 30 years, Linda, was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsil in January 2021. He has since raised £13,380 through a charity bike ride as a “thank you” to the Sunrise Centre and 'head and neck' hospital staff who saw him through the cancer treatment.

His problems began when he suffered from toothache as well as discovering a lump in his neck gland and after visiting his local doctor for a consultation was immediately put on a “14-day notice.”

After a series of scans and biopsies at the head and neck department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, it was revealed that Jason had cancer of the tonsil - a disease that fortunately could be treated effectively if caught soon enough.

Before the operation could take place Jason had to endure three visits to the dentist to have all his teeth extracted, because dental fillings would affect the nature of his operation.

Following his operation in March 2021 his recuperation involved having six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which left Jason drained and “feeling wiped out”, but the surgeons were satisfied the operation was a success and Jason was eventually discharged.

“I never did see any of the surgeons who operated on me,” said Jason, who used to play football for Mawnan. “Because of the pandemic all I could see was their eyes and I would really liked to have thanked every one of them.”

With the pandemic at its height Jason was totally reliant on his partner Linda to help him on the path to recovery at home. “Linda did everything for me,” said Jason. “Being isolated, if it wasn’t for her I don’t know how I would have managed or got through it.”

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Jason, a boatbuilder who specialises in steelwork fabrication, was away from work for 11 months, but he has nothing but praise for his employers, Pendennis Shipyard, for whom Jason has worked for over 30 years, and who supported him in every way throughout his ordeal.

“They have been fantastic,” said Jason. “I couldn’t have asked for better support, they have been great, and Allen and Heath (Penryn) also allowed Linda to work from home to enable her to look after me. I can’t thank them enough.”

Having recuperated well, Jason decided to set about fighting adversity by achieving a positive outcome and wanted to give something back to the hospital.

“I went back to the hospital to see how I could help and when they saw how well I had recovered the Royal Cornwall Hospital charity suggested I take part in the Pedal4Patients Charity Bike Ride.

“Pendennis Shipyard then made it their charity of the year, another great gesture on their part,” he added.

Falmouth Packet: Jason raised more than £13,000 after his cancer treatmentJason raised more than £13,000 after his cancer treatment (Image: Supplied)

Jason, whose weight dropped from 216lbs to 160lbs following his treatment, began training for the event and also set about organising his fundraising campaign which proved to be such a remarkable success.

“Once again I had great financial support from all my friends, the company and workers at Pendennis Shipyard, Falmouth Town AFC who raised almost £4,000 from different events, a Silent Disco at Truro Cathedral, customers who work with Pendennis Shipyard also contributed, and even people who I haven’t seen since leaving school have responded.

"To raise £13,380 when my target was £800 is unbelievable.”

The charity ride, which attracted 14 riders, was a distance of 200 miles over three days and went from Plymouth to Bude, then to Newquay and on to Land’s End.

“I had four punctures during the ride,” said Jason, "but I didn’t repair any of them – the back-up team did all that. We cycled for about eight hours each day which was quite testing although we did stop every two hours.”

Downplaying her own role in Jason’s recovery, partner Linda was full of praise for him: “What Jason has overcome and how hard he has worked to get where he is now makes me burst with pride – can do, will do.”

Jason added: “I have been on quite a journey and since the event I have been inundated with messages, it’s been incredible - and I have also received a certificate from the hospital’s charity committee to mark the event’s fundraising achievement.

”The Sunrise Centre and head and neck department has played a huge part in my treatment and recovery, so by way of a thank you to all the staff I hope that the money I have raised will enable them to continue to help other patients.

“I don’t feel like I’m 54, I’m feeling great. I have been given every chance and every day is a new beginning and I will keep going as long as I can.”