Highlands & Islands

The man fighting cancer by building car

Neil Buxton's hand-built car Image copyright Neil Buxton
Image caption Neil Buxton in his hand-built car

A man who was told by doctors he could have as little as three years left to live has used that time to design and build a 1950s-style racing car.

Sculptor and former art teacher Neil Buxton was diagnosed with late stages of prostate cancer after being rushed to hospital on Christmas Eve 2012.

Mr Buxton and a specialist at Inverness's Raigmore Hospital believe that staying active aids his survival.

The car, called Scot Special, passed its first MOT this month.

It is more than three years since Mr Buxton, 66, from Dulnain Bridge, in the Cairngorms, was found to have a tumour compressing his spinal cord.

The cancer was so aggressive he was given radiotherapy treatment all at once that Christmas Eve.

Image copyright Neil Buxton
Image caption One of Mr Buxton's metalwork sculptures
Image copyright Neil Buxton
Image caption The former school teacher's skills in metalworking were put to a new use in building the car

Mr Buxton said: "The consultant told me, at the time, that I would live up to three years.

He added: "Last autumn he admitted he hadn't expected me to live beyond six weeks because of my spinal cord compression."

'Distinctive shapes'

The former schools art teacher had owned classic cars in the past and got the idea to build a car after overhearing a conversation in hospital.

He said: "There were two cancer patients of a similar age to me and they were talking about all the cars they had owned over the years.

"I then had this idea that I wanted to build a car. I had this idea for car of a design similar to the distinctive shapes of racing cars of the 1950s.

"I didn't start the car until November 2013 as previously I struggled to walk and it took a long time to come to terms with my illness."

Image copyright Neil Buxton
Image caption Mr Buxton started work on the car in November 2013

After buying a Triumph Spitfire chassis, Mr Buxton began building the car, drawing on skills and tools used to create his metalwork sculptures.

Some of the internal body work was made from scrapped washing machines.

Mr Buxton said: "In the early stages I could only manage half an hour a day and slowly my strength increased, allowing me to work up to two to three hours a day.

"I MOT'd it this month."

'Remarkable chap'

Mr Buxton, who continues to receive hormone therapy every four weeks and morphine to reduce the pain, was encouraged to tell his story by his consultant, Dr Neil McPhail.

"The cancer is still there, and it will still get me," said Mr Buxton. "But working on the car has helped to keep it at bay."

Dr McPhail said: "Neil is a remarkable chap. To not only be fully mobile but building a car is amazing.

"He is an inspiration to others. Staying mentally and physically fit can help improve your quality of life.

"This shows that men who have advanced prostate cancer can still have some of the best years of their lives ahead of them. It also shows the importance of keeping active and busy when the cancer is under good control."

Image copyright Neil Buxton
Image caption The car was put through its first MOT this month

Dr McPhail added: "It is really important that people recognise the symptoms of malignant spinal cord compression.

"If you have cancer and develop severe back pain please contact your GP urgently.

"We would also ask that if men are having problems urinating and develop new back pain again please contact your GP urgently."