A CANCER researcher raised in Blackburn has been left ‘devastated’ by being diagnosed with a fatal form of the disease in his forties.

Father-of-two Dr John Timms faces a steady increase in disability, and is unlikely to survive more than five years.

The 48-year-old was diagnosed in July with mesothelioma, which attacks the lining of the lung, and is usually caused by exposure to asbestos.

Already he is suffering from breathlessness and faces increasing pain, fatigue, fever and coughing up blood from the virulent and incurable cancer.

Only 35 per cent sufferers survive more than a year and nine per cent more than five years.

Married to Kate, Dr Timms has two children: Anna,14, and Jamie, 11. For much of his career he has been a researcher into cancer.

Growing up in the Wensley Fold area of Blackburn, the young Dr Timms attended St Silas Church of England School in the mid-1970s, and then Billinge High School.

Now he and his lawyers have launched an appeal for information regarding how his illness, which he believes stems from his Blackburn childhood in the 1970s and 80s, may have developed. Dr Timms said: “My family and I have been left totally devastated by my diagnosis and the illness has already had a huge impact on my life.”

“I have always had a very active lifestyle and enjoyed cycling and running, but the symptoms of the mesothelioma mean it is incredibly difficult to do that now.”

His legal team at specialist lLLawyers Irwin Mitchell are keen to hear from anyone able to shed light on the potential presence of asbestos at the two schools he attended and the nearby Crosshill Special School, now the site of Wensley Fold Primary.

They and Dr Timms believe work at the schools, then run by Lancashire County Council, may have exposed him to asbestos and are also interested in the possibility that discarded broken asbestos in garage plots around the Manor Road area (which he recalls from childhood) could be the source of the disease.

Rosemary Giles, of Irwin Mitchell, said: “This is a truly devastating tale in which a doctor who has devoted much of his life to researching cancer has gone on to develop such a condition at a terribly young age. We would be hugely grateful to anyone who is able to shed light on the presence of asbestos at any of the locations highlighted.”

Dr Timms, who now lives in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, said: “I cannot recall any potential exposure to asbestos during my career so can only think it potentially happened earlier than that. “If anyone can help me gain answers regarding these schools I attended, or was around, it would be hugely appreciated.”

Anyone with information should contact Rosemary Giles at Irwin Mitchell’s Cambridge office on 0370 1500 300 or email Rosemary.Giles@irwinmitchell.com.

Any legal action if the source of the cancer is traced to asbestos in one of the schools is likely to involve the county council.

A county council spokesman said: “If Mr Timms contacts us regarding this appeal for information, we will of course deal with it appropriately. We are unable to comment further at this stage.”