A grandad of eight who was given months to live after being diagnosed with cancer nearly five years ago is getting ready to take part in his 42nd Great North Run.

Ron Snaith, from Gateshead, was diagnosed with terminal cancer mesothelioma, linked to asbestos exposure, in December 2018 at the age of 64.    

Following his diagnosis, Ron was told he had between three to nine months to live. 

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Now, aged 68, the dad-of-two known as Great North Ron, as one of 80 people to have run every Great North Run since its inception, has been selected to participate in this year’s Great North Run for the 42nd consecutive year. 

He’s keen to raise awareness around the dangers of asbestos, while making his family proud.  

The funds are allowing Ron to receive private treatment and take part in a new clinical trial to extend his life.

The Northern Echo: Ron SnaithRon Snaith (Image: IRWIN MITCHELL)

During his employment in shipyards, Ron was mainly based in Tyneside but was also required to work at other shipyards.

He said that asbestos was used throughout the yards, but neither he nor his colleagues were aware of the dangers of the substance and even used to have snowball fights using asbestos lagging.

The Northern Echo: Ron Snaith and Ian ToftRon Snaith and Ian Toft (Image: IRWIN MITCHELL)

Ron began to feel unwell during a holiday to Croatia in September 2018 with his partner, Denise Golden, 58, a mental health nurse. 

On his return home, Ron saw a GP and underwent a blood test, chest X-ray and a CT scan which identified a shadow on his chest.

Following a biopsy, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma that December.

The Northern Echo: Ron preparing for his 42nd Great North RunRon preparing for his 42nd Great North Run (Image: IRWIN MITCHELL)

Since then, he has undergone various further tests and been part of a medical trial to look at whether chemotherapy alone or a combination of chemotherapy and surgery is best for patients with mesothelioma.

Ron underwent chemotherapy surgery to remove the pleurectomy - the lining between the lungs and chest wall, and decortication which involves removal of tumours from the surface of the lung.

The Northern Echo: Ron Snaith and Ian Toft running Ron Snaith and Ian Toft running (Image: IRWIN MITCHELL)

However, Ron isn’t letting his condition stop him from getting ready for this year’s Great North Run.

He said: “When I was given my diagnosis, it was a huge shock as I had always been healthy and loved to keep fit.  I regularly walked, ran and cycled, and I even played football until I was 60.

The Northern Echo: Ron and Ian will be running this year's Great North Run togetherRon and Ian will be running this year's Great North Run together (Image: IRWIN MITCHELL)

“So to find out I had mesothelioma completely floored me, and then to be told that I had limited life left was absolutely devastating.

“My condition is slowly worsening and I suffer from pain and shortness of breath, but I’m still quite fit and healthy and determined to keep living my life to the full as best I can.”

He added: “Sadly nothing will change what I’m going through, so all I want to do now is help others by raising awareness about mesothelioma and how dangerous asbestos is. 

“I have a saying – if you don’t use it, you lose it – and it’s really important for me to challenge myself and keep going as long as I can. 

"I’m still here more than four-and-a-half years and I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me get here.”

Alongside the fundraising, his legal team at Irwin Mitchell went on to secure Ron a settlement from a former employer in connection with his exposure.

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Ian Toft, a specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who is supporting Ron by joining him in the Great North Run, said: “Understandably the past few years haven’t been easy for Ron as he came to terms with his diagnosis and what it means for him and his family.

"However, he’s shown such strength and courage as he attempts to continue living his life as he always has.

“Ron is a real inspiration to so many and is determined to help others affected by mesothelioma by raising awareness of the risks still posed by asbestos."

The Great North Run takes place on Sunday, September 10, with Ron raising money for Mesothelioma UK.