A dad found a tumour the size of a snooker ball on his neck after shedding three stone and it turned out to be cancerous.
Billy Muirhead, 57, tipped the scales at 21st 6lbs when he realised his lifestyle needed to change.
He says he became fed up of people calling him fat – and worried about the impact his weight was having on his health.
The factory worker, from Wigan, said he would previously drink six cans of lager a day and snack on packets of crisps.
He then joined Slimming World and immediately noticed the weight falling off.
But Billy also discovered something – a lump on his neck which turned out to be cancerous.
He said: “I was 21 and a half stone when I joined Slimming World. I lost three stone and I thought ‘oh my face is going slimmer.’
“That’s when I felt this lump on my neck but I thought nothing of it because it was a painless lump.
“My wife was sat there one night, we were watching something on the telly and she said to me ‘you’ve not got any lumps have you?’
“I said I’ve got this one on my neck here – it was massive. It was about the size of a snooker ball.”
Billy’s wife urged him to go to the doctors immediately to get the lump checked and he was soon referred to specialists at a hospital.
He was then diagnosed with a type of stage four tonsil cancer called squamous cell carcinoma in December 2019.
The disease had had also spread to his lymph nodes, he was told.
Billy said: “I had my biopsy and it came back that I had stage four cancer and it had gone to my lymph nodes.
“I was very lucky it hadn’t gone into my organs.
“I’m not soft, I don’t cry. I’m 6ft 3 and I’m quite macho really but I just filled up. I had no one with me because I wasn’t expecting that.
“I was in work and I said ‘I’m just going out to this appointment’ but I obviously I didn’t go back to work and they did more tests after that.”
Billy spent the following months undergoing intensive treatment at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, including seven weeks of radiotherapy and three cycles of chemotherapy.
In July 2020 he was given the all clear and he is now celebrating 12 months of being cancer free.
Billy said: “I actually don’t think my oncologist thought I was going to make it.
“His exact words when he told me I’ve got the all clear were ‘you’ve made a miraculous recovery’.
“I had this lump for that long and I didn’t even know. I had a big fat face and it was only when I lost my weight that I found it.
“I’m a lot more active now and I go out a lot more and I just enjoy getting on everyday and being with my family and grandkids.
“It makes you look after yourself and I just have the occasional drink now mainly at weekends.
“When you’re going through treatment it’s horrendous – I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
“You can’t swallow, you can’t eat, you have to get fed through a tube. I don’t want to go down that road again.”
Billy has changed his whole lifestyle since he joined Slimming World and he wants to pay a special thanks to his consultant Sue Allt, who has helped him along the way.
He said: “It definitely saved my life. That’s why I’ve got a lot of gratitude towards Sue.
“Without Sue I wouldn’t have ended up at Slimming World, she makes you feel so good about yourself.”