Morecambe chef defies cancer to run in son-in-law’s memory

Norman Were with his daughters Julie and Rebecca.
Norman Were with his daughters Julie and Rebecca.
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A restaurant chef who has courageously lived with cancer for almost a decade has been hailed as a “superhero” for running in memory of his son-in-law.

Norman Were, who worked in Lancaster restaurants for more than 40 years, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and given six months to live.

Norman Were (right) with his late son-in-law Al Fletcher.

Norman Were (right) with his late son-in-law Al Fletcher.

But the dad-of-two from Morecambe has defied the prognosis by continuing to live life to the full. Now at the age of 73, Norman is preparing to run around Regent’s Park in London to raise money for a cause very dear to his heart.

Norman and his daughters Julie and Rebecca will take part in the Do it for Charity Superhero Run on May 14 in aid of the UK Sepsis Trust.

Rebecca’s husband Al Fletcher contracted the killer infection sepsis and died last year, aged just 45.

Norman and his family were devastated by the loss of Al, a renowned rock drummer who played on a Grammy-winning album with reggae star Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and toured with ska band The Selecter.

Al first fell ill last summer with flu-like symptoms and a violent cough.

After his temperature rose to 41 degrees, Rebecca called the NHS emergency helpline and was told he probably had the norovirus.

But after he deteriorated overnight, an ambulance was called the next day.

Al was rushed to hospital where his organs suddenly began to fail and he was put on life support.

He clung to life for the next 19 days as staff at Ealing hospital in London tried everything to save him.

But he passed away on July 25 2016.

Now the family wants to make more people aware of sepsis, a condition where the body responds abnormally to an everyday infection by attacking itself.

Rebecca, a former Morecambe High School pupil who now works in London as a teacher, said the infection can come from “a million possibilities”.

She said some people are more susceptible to sepsis than others but the key is identifying and treating it early.

“Al was a heavy smoker, and this wouldn’t have helped, and when the cough got really bad he didn’t get antibiotics at an early stage,” said Rebecca.

“By the time your body starts to attack itself it does so at a ferocious pace. There was an hour where something could have been done about it. After that survival chances are slim.

“Al was very down to earth, a gentleman, a lovely guy who everyone loved.

“If we can save one life, or save one family from going through what we went through, then doing this run will have been worth it.”

Norman was very close to Al and they bonded over a shared love of steam trains.

“Dad treated him like a son,” said Rebecca.

“They had the greatest respect and regard for each other.”

Rebecca and Al were married in 2008, the same year that Norman was diagnosed with cancer.

“We didn’t think dad would make our wedding day so we put it together really quickly because we wanted him to be there,” said Rebecca.

“He was given something like six months to live. But he never complains about having cancer. He’s very similar to Al in his outlook on life. He lives for the day. To us, he’s a superhero.”

Norman, who also coaches junior cricket teams at the Trimpell Club in Morecambe, worked in Lancaster restaurants for more than 40 years.

He started in the Steak and Kabab house in the King’s Arcade in 1974, before he helped set up the Kabab and Steak restaurant on Cable Street, where he worked from 1982 to 1996.

Later he was chef at Crow’s before taking over Kabab and Steak again on China Street from 2003 to 2011.

He was still working as a chef at The Chop House on Church Street (now The Butcher and Tonic), still preparing the steak and kebab sauce he is famous for, until about a year ago.

Norman still makes the sauce at home and its recipe remains a closely-guarded secret.

Thousands will run in Regent’s Park on May 14 for various charities over either a 5km or 10km distance, dressed as superheroes.

You can sponsor Norman at his online fundraising page HERE.