“Don’t end up like me.”
That was the heartfelt message from a father dying from lung cancer to young people tempted by illicit tobacco dealers.
Former DJ Ron Gordon, who has just a few months to live, spoke from his hospital bed as he endured gruelling radiotherapy at Preston’s Rosemere Cancer centre at the Royal Preston hospital.
He allowed a picture of him having the aggressive treatment to be published in support of the LEP’s campaign, Don’t Let Them Make A Packet, in the hope that it would make young people think twice before taking up smoking.
At 60 Ron, of Pole Street, Preston, should have been looking forward to his retirement with his partner of three years Christine.
But instead he fears he may not even live to see his little grandson’s fourth birthday.
Speaking during three week Lancashire Quit Smoking Campaign Ron admits to having tried illicit tobacco once, and says he is shocked at how blatantly it is dealt in pub toilets and on the street.
While he was working in karaoke and disco he was offered it in Preston at least a dozen times.
Today, as he continued treatment in a bid to slow down his cancer and give him more time, the father-of-two said it was one of his dying wishes that his story would inspire people not to take up the habit and not to succumb to illcit tobacco dealers.
He said: “Anyone tempted by the cheap price of illicit tobacco – in fact anyone tempted to take up smoking at all – should look at me.
“This is the reality of what tobacco does. It is a dangerous addiction, an addiction so strong that I am still smoking even now.
“I tried my first cigarette at 16 and was hooked straight away.
“That’s why illicit cigarettes are so dangerous, they are offered cheaply to young people who might not be able to get served in shops or afford a legal pack. All it takes is that first cigarette and the damage is done.
“Each time I go into Preston I see people in their 20s, 30s, 40s dealing illegal cigarettes and even younger ones smoking them.
“It is rife in the pubs and clubs. I gave up smoking for 18 years but I have been smoking again for the last six. I believe it is a major factor in my illness. As people can see, this is the result.
“I have undergone chemotherapy and it can be tough on you, you have no energy, you’re lethargic, sometimes sick, you can get thrush in the mouth, or pain in the lung so you can’t sleep. You suffer swelling and lesions all over your body.
“Radiotherapy makes you very sore, I can feel twinges in my lung. To me though its a small price to pay for an extension.”
Ron was only diagnosed in August last year after suffering a cough, but doctors said it was terminal, and that he had nine to 12 months to live.
His diagnosis was a double tragedy for partner Christine, from Penwortham, who lost her husband to pancreatic cancer just four years ago, and now faces losing Ron too.
Visibly upset he added: “I was very, very gutted, very emotional, when I was given the diagnosis and obviously then had to deal with the reality of it.
“I am a practical person, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. I will deal with whatever is in front of me.
“I feel bad for my children that I’ve been robbed of time with them and obviously time with Christine. But I am grateful of one thing – I’m grateful I have been given time to sort things out with my family, and spend time with them.
“A lot of people can die quickly with a heart attack but at least family have been given time to prepare. We’ve been on holidays and are going to the Canaries while I still have a degree of quality of life.”
Ron is backing the LEP’s calls for tougher action to be taken against dealers. He said: “ When I am in the pub I see people smoking this illicit stuff, and sometimes they are mixing it with cannabis, or taking tablets as well.
“Don’t think these things will never happen to you. I would encourage anyone reading my story to sign the petition or, if they know who is dealing illicit tobacco, to do the right thing and come forward.”