WHEN Hartlepool man Keith Rogers was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer in his chest it changed his life forever.
Keith received the hammer blow news aged just 41 and at the time the initial fear was that he may not live any longer than another five years after it was confirmed he had a malignant melanoma.
Melanoma is a cancer that usually starts in the skin, either in a mole or in normal-looking skin and in Keith’s case it was a mole on his chest.
But he didn’t let it stop him and together with his wife, Maureen, they made an instant decision to start seeing more of the world and caught the travelling bug big time.
Over the past 38 years the devoted couple have been all over Europe, Asia, America and even the Arctic and Antarctic and back.
The pair are now in their 70s and, despite the initial fears over how long Keith would have to live, in the end he didn’t have to go through radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment and the doctors gave him the all clear after an operation to remove the malignant melanoma before it could spread.
Keith, 79, of Manor Garth Drive, said: “It all started when I had this malignant melanoma on my chest in my 40s.
“The doctors took one look at it, feared it could turn really nasty, and I had an operation to remove it within two weeks.
“Thankfully we caught it in good time and I had a skin graft and regular check-ups, first every month, then every six months but they were happy they had got it all out.
“Initially we didn’t know how long I’d have left and we made a decision to see the world.
“Since then we have been to Israel, Egypt, Western Samoa, Singapore, Jordan, flown around the world, Greenland and Iceland, Norway twice, the Baltic capitals and Saint Petersburg, the Antarctic and South America, cruised through the Panama canal, drove 6,000 miles across the United States and visited Hawaii.
“We have also been to Canada and New England.
“We flew to Vancouver sailed the inside passage to Alaska, then the train through the Rockies to Calgary and the a coach back through the Rockies to Vancouver.
“We have had some wonderful experiences and seen so much of the world.”
He had only been to Germany when he was younger before the pair decided to embark on their dream of seeing the world.
Keith, who had a confectionery and tobacconist shop in Stockton Road and the indoor market for 50 years, retired in 2000 while Maureen is a retired health visitor and midwife and the pair have two children, Sally-Ann and Susan.
While the pair may be not be travelling now as much as they used to – indeed they only go where they can board a ferry or cruise liner – they still fancy going on a cruise around the Caribbean.
Keith, who enjoys painting, concerts and cycling as well as travelling, had a clear piece of advice for anyone interested in seeing the world.
The 79-year-old said: “If people can afford it then just do it, they won’t regret it.
“You don’t want to wait until you are 65 and over as some of the tours we went on there were pensioners who were struggling to climb and walk.
“But luckily we were in our 40s so enjoyed it that much more.
“We live comfortably but we would of course be better off if we hadn’t done what we had done.
“But for the experiences we’ve had, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”