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Widow Takes Fight to No.10

Byline: By Paul McMillan Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), February 24, 2006

Asbestos widow Chris Knighton is taking a petition with 5,500 Tyneside signatures to Downing Street to get a better deal for victims of mesothelioma sufferers and their families.

Chris started the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund in memory of her husband who died from the condition in 2001.

Mick was 60 but had been exposed to asbestos as a young man in the Royal Navy. The condition, a chest cancer, can take up to 40 years to appear.

Since his death, Chris, 59, from Wallsend, has campaigned tirelessly for the fund, which has so far reached pounds 150,000.

Today she will be among mesothelioma sufferers and those who have lost loved ones to the asbestos-related disease, lining the banks of the Tyne in a candlelit vigil.

The event has been organised by solicitors Irwin Mitchell who invited members of Mrs Knighton's mesothelioma self-help group to take part.

More than a dozen people whose lives have been blighted by the condition were expected to gather near the Gateshead bank of the Millennium Bridge at 3.30pm.

Mrs Knighton said: "I hope it will promote awareness. The action day on Monday is the first time we will have been able to promote awareness nationally.

"That's what the most important part is, working together we can achieve something.

Next Monday she will be presenting the petition at No.10 as part of a national day of action organised by the British Lung Foundation, which has received pounds 100,000 from Mick's fund.

On the same day, Chris, 59, has organised a meeting at St James' Park for mesothelioma sufferers, their families and campaigners.

She said: "I've organised the event because it's a national day and I'm part of the industrial diseases sub-committee, which is part of the British Lung Foundation.

"It's really about raising the profile of mesothelioma. There are going to be events throughout the country so I thought we should do something in Newcastle seeing as there is such a high incidence rate here.

"I won't be there as I'll be in London handing in a petition with 5,500 signatures. We asked people to sign for better rights for victims, funding for better research into the condition and better treatment being made available to them.

"We're also calling on employers to safely remove asbestos so they're not in this situation in the future."

Among the event delegates will be Prof Hilary Calvert, the clinical director for the Northern Institute for Cancer Research who developed the life-extending drug Alimta which was made available to North East mesothelioma patients following a Chronicle campaign.