RETIRED grave digger Gerry Law will celebrate his 65th birthday tomorrow - 12 years after doctors told him he had only six months to live.
The golf enthusiast - who had never missed a day off work in his life - had half his stomach, part of his bowel and the whole of his spleen removed when he fell seriously ill in 2000.
Tests confirmed he had been suffering from bowel cancer for at least a year.
Doctors also feared it had spread to his lungs and lymph glands.
They told him, at best, he would have between six weeks and six months to live.
But 12 years on, Mr Law, who lives near Banff, Aberdeenshire, has defied medical expectations and, against all odds, is living a normal, healthy life.
He has now been cancer free for more than 10 years - despite being unable to complete a gruelling chemotherapy programme for fear it would kill him even quicker.
And Mr Law and his wife Mary, 64, believe his love of golf - a sport he has played for more than 40 years - is what has helped keep him going.
“When they told me I had only six months to live, I just thought that’s me away,” he said. “I thought I’d never see my wife again. It was terrible.
“But after the six months came and went, I just had to take it a day at a time and see what happened.
“I love my golf, it’s always been a big part of our lives and if it wasn’t for the [golf] buggy I would never have played again and would have hardly got out the house. I just had to keep myself going.
“I just tried to forget about the cancer. I was happy to speak to anyone about it but I couldn’t sit down with it every day.
“I still can’t believe I’ve lasted this long. I consider myself very lucky to still be alive,” he added.
Mr Law - who even met his wife through their golfing circles - was initially told by his GP that the abdominal pain he was suffering was down to lack of exercise.
But three months later, after a golf outing, he fell seriously ill and the next day he was admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
After two weeks of tests, surgeons carried out a risky four-hour operation to remove part of his bowel, half his stomach, and his spleen.
The lead surgeon confirmed he had removed the diseased areas successfully. But at a hospital appointment a few weeks later, Mr Law was given the devastating news that the cancer was terminal and he only had six months to live.
He was put on a trial cancer drug, which failed to work, in an effort to prolong his life.
But Mr Law was soon delivered another agonising blow when doctors told him the disease had now spread to his lungs and lymph glands.
A gruelling course of chemotherapy followed, but before it was complete, the then 53-year-old’s lungs became riddled with blood clots - a side affect caused by the treatment.
His wife, a retired administrator, who suffered a breakdown as a result of the emotional trauma, said: “It nearly killed him. He had five lots of chemotherapy but after the blood clots that ended that. They wouldn’t give him any more.
“When I visited him in hospital they said they thought they had lost him. His whole body was blue and his heart was doing 180.
“It was devastating but I think after that we were very positive life-wise.”
Mr Law got out of hospital - not knowing how long he had left - and the same day, he and his wife drove 45-miles from Banff to Forres, Moray, to what he thought would be his last golfing jamboree.
But Mr Law said: “I’ve has been at every jamboree for the last 12 years.”
His wife added: “I think the focus of having something he really enjoyed and looked forward to helped his recovery.
“It was a bombshell when we were first told. He’d never been ill in his life. He’d never been off work before.
“But we never let it get us down.
“We still take each day as it comes and on Tuesday he will be 65, a day we really thought we‘d never see. We are very fortunate to still be together,” she added.
At a party to celebrate Mr Law’s 60th birthday - seven years after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer - £1,641 was raised for the Anchor Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where he was treated.
Mr Law, who was pensioned off after 20 years as a grave digger when he became ill, said: “I think the surgeon who said he got it all was right.
“I'm fine now. I still take every day as it comes. I try to play two games of golf a week and I'm looking forward to this year's jamboree."