MP Grahame Morris has spoken for the first time about his cancer fight and thanked those who supported him as he battled back to health.
The 56-year-old Labour politician, who represents Easington, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma - which affects the network of vessels and glands around the body - following the toughest time in his political career.
He had put his extreme tiredness and unexplained weight loss down to the fact he dealing with a “tremendous workload” as one of the remaining shadow cabinet members during the crisis which hit the party in June last year.
Mr Morris struggled through to the recess to undergo tests, which revealed the true cause of his illness.
Since his diagnosis at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, he has been treated through a team led by consultant haematologist Graham Jackson, at the Freeman Hospital with rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The former Sunderland Royal Hospital laboratory scientific officer is now in remission, but further chemotherapy sessions are planned at the University College Hospital in London, allowing him to continue to work in Parliament.
The NHS has been absolutely marvellous, from diagnosis, treatment and follow ups.Grahame Morris
He kept his health problems under wraps as he fought back, but has now told of how the condition and the gruelling rounds of drugs knocked him back and forced him to rest while he strived to fulfil his duties.
“The chemo sessions could be draining and I wasn’t well enough to get to London, but I was still able to work in the constituency” he said.
“For quite a few months I wasn’t able to participate in votes, and that’s why my voting record is so poor for that year.
“Before the General Election, I had a three week cycle of chemo, which involved me going to the Freeman, then I would have a week off and then start again.
“It works to kill the cancer cells before the healthy cells, but is has some side affects, so I still can’t drive because I have a bit of blurry vision and I still can’t feel the ends of my finger tips, but that will get better.
“The extra chemo is belt and braces and I’ve had scans and thankfully everything looks fine.”
He added: “Friends and family were incredibly supportive, as were officers and members of my staff.
“Members of Constituency Labour Party who were stoical throughout and were absolutely terrific.”
Mr Morris, a former member of the select health committee, said: “I’m officially in remission, I feel restored and healthy and I’ve got my hair back, in so far as I didn’t have a full head in the first place, and I’ve put some weight on and my energy levels are up and I feel great.
“The NHS has been absolutely marvellous, from diagnosis, treatment and follow ups.
“The specialist cancer units are under a lot of pressure in terms of the number of people presenting, but everyone, the doctors, nurses, admin staff, radiographers, people who do the blood tests, ambulance drivers, cleaners, the quality of the service, have been outstanding.”
Mr Morris said that his insight as a patient has fired up his passion for the future of the NHS.
“I am eternally grateful to the staff in the NHS.
“I worked in the NHS and now I really appreciate it’s value,” he added.
“We must secure proper resources and make sure funding is at a level needed if it is to continue to be a world class health service.
“It enrages me that services are being deliberately dismantled, despite assurances the NHS isn’t been privatised, and that bit by bit, they are being underfunded then out sourced, “Our health service is the envy of the world.
“I have seen with my own eyes the longer waiting times for ambulances and difficulties people have accessing specialist services, although I must say the cancer services are outstanding, but it is hard for people with long term chronic conditions.”
He added his thanks to his friends and family, as well as the staff who run his office and Easington Constituency Labour Party, fellow MPs and whips for their support during his illness,
He said: “Jeremy Corbyn was a diamond and very supportive when I told him about my condition.
“He said take as long as you need to and only come back into the frontline when you’re feeling up to it and throughout has been asking how I was doing.
“I even got a lovely message from him on Christmas day.
“I am keen to get on with the job my constituents elected me to do.
“There are so many policies for which this government must be held to account including funding for the NHS, transport investment including addressing the causes of accidents on the A19, WASPI women disadvantaged by changes to the State Retirement Pension age, and the important issues of falling living standards, opportunities for young people and the economic regeneration of traditional industrial areas like ours.”