Scots dad who had monster 10lb tumor removed from back dies in sleep as family left devastated

A Scots dad who had a monster 10lb tumor removed from his back has died suddenly in his sleep.

Kevin O’Neil, 52, from Inverkeithing, endured a decade-long battle with pain before doctors discovered he was just one of 15 people in the world to have a rare condition called Myopericytoma – a soft tissue tumor.

In an extraordinary 10-hour-operation, the former union organizer had 15 surgeons remove the giant tumor in 2015, giving him the chance to see his two sons, Jack, 24, and Nathan, 8, grow up.

But being treated for the benign tumors resulted in taking out six of Kevin’s ribs, two-thirds of his shoulder blade, moving muscle from his lower back, and rebuilding his chest – leaving him suffering from chronic pain since.

Ill health had taken its toll on Kevin’s body, but his death came “out of the blue” for his devastated family.

His wife Kirsty found his body on Saturday morning (February 5) and a post-mortem is now taking place.

Kevin O'Neil, 52, from Inverkeithing, was one of only 15 people in the world to have myopericytoma cancer.
Kevin O’Neil, 52, from Inverkeithing, was one of only 15 people in the world to have myopericytoma cancer.

Hi son Jack told the Record: “It seems so out of the blue. My dad has been really ill at different points in the last 10 years but it wasn’t anything like that, he just died in his sleep suddenly.

“There had been a lot of times when my step-mum Kirsty called to say she had taken him to the hospital and I thought his passing was imminent.

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Kevin O'Neil before his tumor was removed
Kevin O’Neil before his tumor was removed

“He struggled a lot but even when I saw him a couple of weeks ago he seemed well.

“But everything that he had gone through had taken a toll on his body. We’re just thankful he died peacefully.

“I don’t think people realize just how bad the chronic pain was he had to live with. He picked up my brother every day from school and was always busy organizing fundraisers – he did so much even when he was ill.

“He was my hero and I’ve never seen such courage.”

Kevin’s health problems began in 2006 when he was trained for a charity cycle from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.

And despite having to medically retire from his role at Unison, he continued with fundraising efforts for Maggie’s Macmillian cancer and Sarcoma, including staging a music festival.

Kevin O'Neil's 10lb tumor cut out to save his life.
Kevin O’Neil’s 10lb tumor cut out to save his life.

With a passion for politics, he was one of the youngest candidates in the country to stand for local election when he was 18 for the Labour, before joining the SNP and running for selection with the party.

He also was one of the founders of the campaign group ‘Action for Prestonhill’ after his brother died in an accident at the Inverkeithing quarry in 1973.

Tributes have poured in from across Scotland including prominent politicians such SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP.

“Thinking of you and your family, Jack. So sorry for your loss,” he said.

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman said: “So, so sad to hear this news. Kevin was an inspiration to all who had the privilege to know him. Thinking of Kirsty, Nathan, Jack and all family and friends. RIP Big Man. “

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Kevin O'Neil, his wife Kirsty and son Nathan in 2016.
Kevin O’Neil, his wife Kirsty and son Nathan in 2016.

Jack added: “My dad really was an amazing guy – I can’t believe the number of people from all walks of life who have been in touch saying he touched their lives.

“He was an extraordinary man who dedicated much of his life to helping others. He always told me how proud he was of me, I just hope he knew how proud I was of him.

“In the face of a horrific rare illness, invasive and traumatic treatments, and unrelenting chronic pain he did his utmost to act as a pillar of strength for our family, raise my 8-year-old brother, Nathan, and be an amazing Dad to us both.

“He’s left a massive hole.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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