Graeme Heward assumed he just had a blocked tear duct and Dry Eye syndrome when he went to the doctors.
But the 58-year-old was stunned when he discovered he actually had a cancer of the nasal lining.
He had a tumour growing in his face – which he dubbed “The Alien”.
And he has battled cancer since then, with the treatments causing significant damage to his face.
He has undergone almost 30 surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which cost him his right eye and left him struggling to breathe.
“I was embarrassed for some reason, so I called it The Alien”
“It was too painful to admit I had cancer. I was embarrassed for some reason, so I called it The Alien,” he told The Liverpool Echo.
“It was unwanted and unwelcome and it invaded my life.”
He added: “I wasn’t feeling unwell and I didn’t suffer any weight loss, it all started with the watery eye.
“When the tumour was discovered, I could actually see the mass up my nose, but doctors originally believed it was benign.”
Treatment left him with a hole in his face – but he has since has skin and muscle grafted on from his thigh.
Graeme, who works a physio, also had a a prosthetic eye fitted in 2018 and then a prosthetic nose.
It means he can now breathe properly again without pain and even wear his glasses.
Two years ago Graeme’s treatment options were reduced to palliative chemotherapy only.
He has now begun a 1,000 mile bike ride to raise money for the Maggie’s Centre in Manchester.
The centres are a network of drop-in locations where anyone suffering from cancer can go for support.
Having already raised almost £5,000, Graeme says part of the ride is also to raise awareness of the centres.
Graeme will spend the next two weeks cycling from Swansea to Inverness, stopping at every Maggie’s Centre along the way.
He said: “I am surrounded by incredible people who have helped me go through this, including my amazing partner Leslie.
“But I have also received so much support from Maggie’s and I just want to help them in any way I can.
“A lot of people don’t know what Maggie’s is and hopefully they will never need to use their services but I just want to help them in any way I can.”
He added: “The ethos of these centres is perhaps best summed up in a quote from their founder Maggie Keswick Jones ‘Above all what matters is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’ which is a concept I now embody in my daily life.”