TWO cancer patients, who travelled to America for live-saving treatment, discovered they were actually neighbours from Bolton.

Retired teaching assistant Kath Quinn, aged 68, and Michael Saunders, aged 71, met for the first time in Jacksonville, Florida where they were getting proton beam therapy (PBT).

It was during their time at the hospital when they realised they lived just yards away from each other, with Mrs Quinn from Chorley Old Road and Mr Saunders from Doffcocker Lane.

Both were patients at The Christie in Manchester and their consultants recommended them for the therapy, which is not currently available in the UK.

Mrs Quinn, a mother-of-four, was diagnosed with a hard-to-reach tumour in a passage behind her nose.

NHS England agreed to fund the PBT treatment and in January, 2016 she and her husband Tony flew to Florida where she underwent 39 treatments over several weeks.

She said: “I never wanted to go to America, but the treatment I had there was superb.

“We met another patient from Manchester while we were there, Michael, and it turned out he lives round the corner from us in Bolton. We have kept in touch after returning home.”

Mr Saunders, a widower with two daughters, was diagnosed with a skull-based tumour on top of his pituitary gland.

He spent 11 weeks in America with his youngest daughter Kerry and underwent 41 treatments.

He said: “I met other patients from England there including Kath from Bolton and we had a little UK group. We’d go for meals together and so forth.

“The hospital was great, it’s a fantastic facility but it’s good that this treatment is coming to Manchester soon.

“If the proton therapy had been in Manchester, so close to home, it would have made things a great deal easier for me and my daughters.”

PBT uses a precision high-energy beam of particles to destroy cancer cells and has better targeting and fewer side effects than traditional radiotherapy.

Currently the NHS sends people needing PBT to the United States or Switzerland but from August, 2018 The Christie will be treating patients in Manchester.

Both Mrs Quinn and Mr Saunders have joined a panel of former Christie patients who have received proton beam therapy overseas.

The group share their ideas to help shape plans for the treatment and care that will be offered at the new centre.