A COUPLE determined to raise awareness of deadly asbestos-related cancer are climbing up the O2 Arena for the cause next week.

Tony and Helen Wilangowski, of Acre Path, are joining asbestos disease support group HASAG in taking on the challenge on November 9, to raise money and awareness after Helen herself was diagnosed with incurable mesothelioma two-and-a-half years ago.

In April 2016, Helen was given nine to 18 months to live, yet she has just celebrated her 66th birthday and is currently in a stable condition.

The former teaching assistant and civil servant still does not know where she was exposed to asbestos which caused the disease.

Tony said: “It’s very unusual for Helen to want to do this, she’s usually a very private person.

“As far as I’m concerned it is all about making people aware they could have the disease. It seems a bit like scaremongering but it is not, it is fact all you have to do is inhale one fibre of asbestos and literally anyone can be affected by it.

“It’s devastating for families.”

The couple said the disease is being found in younger people more frequently, themselves knowing a terminally ill patient as young as 29-years-old.

Shortness of breath is one symptom of the asbestos exposure-related disease, and it was a small change in Helen’s breathing that led to her diagnosis.

The grandmother-of-five said: “I knew my breathing wasn’t right but I wasn’t struggling or anything. It just seemed the rhythm was wrong, I thought it was blood pressure. I was lucky I saw one of the doctors to do a chest x-ray.”

Helen did not tell her children until six months after she found out about her illness, and underwent an intrusive surgery in the hope to give herself more time.

She is now climbing the 52m-high o2 Arena in a bid to prove she can still do things.

She added: “I’m going to be slow and it’s going to take my breath away.

“For meso sufferers a lot of them are diagnosed and they think there’s no hope. But you can recover to an extent that we can get on and do things.

“I’m proving to myself I can still do things. And letting people know there is still life after diagnosis, the thing is trying to get diagnosed as soon as possible.”

The couple will be among up to 30 others climbing the megastructure in aid of HASAG/meso research.

Helen and Tony hope to raise as much as possible for the event, which is taking place two years and one day after Helen underwent the major surgery.

Helen added: “It’s like a ticking time bomb. I’m stable now but it is going to come back.

“I have been lucky I have been given a boost. I got to see three grandchildren born in a year, I saw my daughter graduate which I didn’t think I was going to.

“There is definitely hope out there, but there definitely needs to be awareness so people avoid it.”

To donate go to justgiving.com/fundraising/tony-wilangowski.