A man who received a devastating cancer diagnosis after an “innocent” play fight at a family gathering has urged others to get symptoms checked out as soon as possible.

Rob Draper, 27, from Wirral was enjoying a warm summer’s evening in late July when a relative innocently slapped his stomach.

"I was having a few drinks in my front garden in the nice weather with my girlfriend and family after work,” he told Liverpool Echo.

"When I was having a drink, I was messing around me and my sister's boyfriend, he slapped me on the stomach just messing about. Later I got these terrible pains in my stomach and felt like I'd been stabbed.”

After experiencing "excruciating" stomach pains, he noticed blood on a visit to the toilet and visited his GP the next day.

Rob was rushed to Arrowe Park Hospital after being slapped in the stomach (


Liverpool Echo)

"Obviously I went to the doctor the next day and they rushed me to Arrowe Park hospital. I was in there for about a week and a half, I had a camera down my throat, then they starved me for three days to do another camera.

"I got told there was a gastro-intestinal tumour in my stomach, it's called duodenal cancer.”

Rob, who works as a mental health care worker, has since undergone a 10 and a half hour surgery to remove the tumour, including a Whipple procedure to remove the head of his pancreas.

His first surgery was cancelled due to the pandemic, so he was forced to wait another week in isolation for a second appointment. “It was horrible, really worrying,” he said.

"The cancer had spread into a few different places, into my pancreas, spleen, small intestines and bowel.”

He is currently recovering from surgery at hospital, where he is awaiting further tests to find out whether all of the tumour has been caught.

He said: "The last couple of days I'd say I feel brand new to be honest, obviously I'm in pain where my scar is but I feel like I'm healing and recovering."

Rob said he wanted to share his ordeal in the hopes of raising awareness of the importance of getting checked out at the first sign of symptoms.

He told the Echo that he had spotted problems before July. He said: "I had a few problems for a couple of years, passing blood on and off now and again and I had gone to the doctors a couple of times, had my prostate checked and it was all fine, no problems, so I'd thought it was probably nothing and left it at that.”

He added: “You don't expect it you know, you see all these adverts on the TV and my girlfriend had said you need to get checked out, I've got a two-year-old son, I'm 27 and you think I'll be alright, I'll be okay, but I wish I'd have got checked sooner.

The dad is currently recovering from surgery at the hospital (


Getty Images)

Get all the latest news sent to your inbox. Sign up for the free Mirror newsletter

"If you've got problems or symptoms, don't mess about, get it looked at.

"That night, that play fight, it made the tumour bleed but if that didn't happen it would have killed me as I didn't have any other symptoms.

"That play fight without a doubt saved my life, I'm so grateful that happened.”

Two of Rob’s friends have set up a fundraising page to help his family to deal with the financial strains of him being off work due to his diagnosis and treatment.

Rob added: “It's been really rough, it was a hard time working during Covid and now this has happened. It's been the hardest time in my life to be honest, it's scary, I've been fine but deep down I've been petrified.

"More than anything, I just want to raise awareness for people to get checked. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I've gone through."

To donate to the fundraiser for Rob Draper and his family click here.

Read More Read More