WHEN it comes to bowel cancer, too many people – especially men – die of embarrassment because they ignore the symptoms or shy away from being tested.

If bowel cancer is spotted early enough, there's a 97 per cent survival rate so, in recent columns, I've been writing about the importance of early diagnosis.

It led to a call from Graham Sheldon, Bishop Auckland newsagent, local impresario, average golfer, and all-round good egg: "You need to go and see my pal Terry Craddock – he's got a brilliant story to tell," he said.

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So I did. And he has...

Terry greeted me at the door of his home in Spennymoor, with a grin as wide as the letter-box and a healthy glow, making a mockery of his 73 years.

However, had he not tuned in to the radio one day in early 2006, it would almost certainly have been a very different story.

As Terry drove around Newcastle in his job as a joiner, Jeremy Vine was on BBC Radio 2, and the show's regular medical adviser, Dr Sarah Jarvis, was highlighting the symptoms of bowel cancer.

Terry had been worried for a while. He'd gone off his food and had been suffering from sharp stomach pains that brought him to his knees. And there was Dr Jarvis, describing exactly how he felt.

Back home, Terry told his wife Carole, a radiographer at Bishop Auckland General Hospital, and she made up his mind there and then that he needed to see a doctor. That led to a referral to Darlington Memorial Hospital where bowel cancer was diagnosed. Luckily, it was treatable and Terry underwent an operation in May 2006.

His recovery initially seemed to be progressing well but, in December 2008, cancer was found in his liver. Terry was referred to St James's University Hospital in Leeds, under the care of Professor Peter Lodge, a “brilliant” Houghton-le-Spring lad.

"I thought that was it, I had no chance, but Professor Lodge told me he could deal with it," recalls Terry.

The tumour was removed and he embarked on course of chemotherapy. Despite making him tired, he still regularly managed to walk five miles home after each treatment.

In August, 2010, came the devastating news that the cancer had moved to his lungs but, as with his bowel and liver, it was found early enough for an operation to offer hope.

Terry remained positive throughout and, seven years on, he feels, and looks, "as fit as a fiddle". He plays golf – "or tries to" – as a member at Bishop Auckland, enjoys long walks, and loves nothing more than seeing his grandchildren. He especially treasures the memory of taking them to the London Olympics in 2012.

His remarkable story of survival is crowned by a happy coincidence. Radio 2 was celebrating its 50th anniversary on September 30 this year and the date also marked Terry and Carole's golden wedding. She was moved to write to Jeremy Vine, saying: "Without your show, we might not have reached our milestone."

The email was read out and then the BBC got in touch to ask if Terry would go on the show on the eve of the 50th anniversary as a surprise for Dr Sarah Jarvis.

As luck would have it, a family trip to London to see School of Rock had already been planned to celebrate the golden wedding. The BBC, therefore, arranged for Terry and Carole to be smuggled into the studio, along with their daughter Rachel and son Richard, plus grandchildren Dan, 12, Rohan, 10, and Emily, seven. Rachel's husband, Mike, and Richard's wife, Catherine, were also included in the surprise.

"Sarah Jarvis knew nothing about it and she just burst into tears when we walked in," says Terry.

It was an "unforgettable experience". The grandkids got to press the buttons in the studio, tinkle on the Elton John piano, and Emily had a dance with Strictly winner Ore Oduba.

"If I hadn't had the radio on in the car that day, I wouldn't be here now," says Terry, wiping away a tear. "There were times when I was on my knees in pain but I kept thinking I'd get over it."

Without that early diagnosis, Terry wouldn't have been able to enjoy his retirement with Carole, or go on trying to master golf. He'd never have witnessed the magic of the Olympics. And he would never have seen two of his grandchildren.

"Don't ignore the signs – and live life to the full." That's the message Terry wants to broadcast to as many folk as possible.