A BRAVE young Kendal man who died of oesophageal cancer has left an inspirational legacy.
Alex Baron, 27, passed away at his home just a year after being diagnosed with stage four cancer.
But his determination to raise awareness of the disease among young people will live on through a number of hard-hitting online blogs he posted.
In the series of YouTube posts, Alex talks openly about his 'struggle' with cancer, from when he first felt the symptoms to his experiences of chemotherapy.
His mission was to increase the profile of oesophageal cancer, and in a video viewed by more than 1,000 people, he said: "My advice is, if you are having problems swallowing, go and get it checked by a doctor.”
Now his family and friends have vowed to continue his campaign and to run fund-raising events in his name.
A charity gig for Macmillan Cancer Support will be held at Bootleggers in Kendal on Sunday – an evening of music which Alex had planned.
His friend Adam Clayton said: “It was his idea to put a charity gig together for Macmillan because of all the support they had given him. He started organising it but it kept getting put back.
“It will be a celebration of his life. I have no doubt that it is going to be amazing, and he would have loved to have been there.”
The music graduate was diagnosed with cancer on February 18 last year and started chemotherapy two weeks later.
In one of his Youtube entries, called ‘V-Blog 1: The d-low on the c-bomb’, Alex said he first realised he had symptoms in October of 2012, when he was eating a sandwich that got stuck in his gullet.
“By November food started to get stuck more frequently, the pain started to intensify and my body started to reject food. I could not even swallow yoghurt,” he said.
He initially thought it was acid reflux and when he finally went to the doctor was told it was an ulcer.
Dad David said: “Oesophageal cancer is often thought of as something older people get and Alex wanted everyone to know that is not true – anybody can get it. He wanted to make younger people aware and to tell them to go to the doctor as soon as you get symptoms.”
His son did an open mic night at The Gilded Lily in Ambleside to talk about the issue, and had planned to do more.
Friend Matt Milburn, who had known Alex for about ten years, said: “He just wanted to help. He felt that oesophageal cancer does not get a lot of media attention and he wanted people to know about it. He got a lot of response from his blogs and they got re-tweeted by celebrities – he was buzzing.”
He added: “He was incredibly brave and inspirational with the way he carried on and still did things he wanted to do. He would just want people to live their lives to the fullest.”
Alex had six cycles of chemotherapy before going into remission. But the cancer came back after just six weeks and the subsequent two cycles of treatment failed.
His family said that he fought the cancer right until the end.
Sister Lizzie, 21, said: “Alex never seemed to let anything get him down, he was such a positive person and never gave up. He was still planning.
“And the whole way through he cared about everyone else. He would always worry about what we would be like. He was just such a thoughtful person.”
Mum Melanie added: “He was just a very good person. He genuinely was.”
The family moved to Kendal from Rochdale when Alex was 16 and he went to Kendal College to study music before going to the University of Wolverhampton.
After graduating he looked at becoming a teacher, and was also interested in working in radio so volunteered with the hospital radio in Kendal.
President and station manager John Williamson said: “Alex was a very good pre-senter and loved every minute of it. You could not get him out of the place sometimes! He was just so enthusiastic it was unreal – and he was one of those who would always be first to fundraise. He will be missed greatly.”
He also worked at the town’s ASDA for nine years, and was described as a ‘well-loved and valued’ member of the team. Colleagues have already filled a memorial book.
Manager Debbie Baker said: “Alex was an all-round good lad. Many colleagues have said how they will miss his smile and passion for music.”
The guitarist, who was described as kind and unassuming, was said to absolutely love music.
Lizzie said: “He loved the guitar scene and going to see bands. He was into punk, ska and bands like Biffy Clyro, who we saw together in both Blackpool and New York. Even in December he went to watch a band in Glasgow.”
David added: “Alex will be remembered for his generosity and the fact he always had a smile. He was our hero, who just happened to be our son.”
A funeral will be held on Monday (24) at Holy Trinity and St George Church, Kendal, at 1pm.
The Bootleggers event starts at 6.30pm on Sunday.
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SYMPTOMS OF OESOPHAGEAL Difficulty in swallowing - the most common symptom
Food coming back up - more like regurgitating food than being sick
Weight loss - this may happen because of difficulty swallowing or discomfort when eating
Pain or discomfort in the throat or back, behind the breastbone or between the shoulder blades
Acid indigestion - extremely common but can be caused by a tumour
Hoarseness - or chronic cough that will not go away
Coughing up blood - blood in vomit, or food that is regurgitated