A 30-year-old school kitchen worker had no idea that some pain in his upper arm and shoulder was the first sign of a rare cancer that would soon cause his death.
David MacMilan chalked the pain up to an injury he had suffered in a fun arm wrestle with his dad at New Year.
But the pain failed to subside and he contacted his doctor.
At first he was assessed by a doctor and then a physiotherapist, reports Chronicle Live.
But the 30-year-old never got an appointment, as the country was plunged into the coronavirus lockdown.
As David’s health began to deteriorate in April his worried GP sent him to hospital where he was quickly diagnosed with a germ cell tumour, a very rare form of cancer that can be caused while a baby is developing in the womb.
Determined not to be beaten by the disease David refused to give up as he underwent courses of chemotherapy, which aimed to shrink the tumour that was pressing against his heart.
But earlier this month medics told his devoted mum Diane Whinn there was nothing more they could do.
And David died in her arms on October 8.
As Diane endures the heartache of losing her boy she is tortured by thought that David’s life might have been saved had he seen a doctor sooner.
And as she pays tribute to her boy, the nurse has urged all young men not to delay getting medical help, regardless of the pandemic.
Diane said: “It’s quite possible he’s had it all his life, but because he was so fit and healthy it was a silent killer.
“I just think if someone had physically examined him we might have found out something sooner.”
David was born in Scotland but had spent the past 20 years living in Pegswood, near Morpeth, with his mum and stepdad, Mark Whinn.
He worked in the kitchen at Morpeth First School where his enthusiasm and sense of humour made him a big hit with the pupils.
Away from work David divided his time between his two big passions, the family’s two pet bulldogs and editing videos for his YouTube channel Pirate Dog, which has 250,000 followers.
“He’s just always been a typical lad,” Diane explained. “He was into his skate-boarding, computers and he played Xbox.
“He made montage videos of DC and Marvel stuff for YouTube. He would sit for hours editing videos.
“Whatever he did he put 110% in. He had such a sense of humour. At work he used to hide things, and put eyes on the school bell so it looked like it was looking at you.
“He knew all the kids by name. He knew which ones liked blue trays or red trays and which ones liked their beans away from their pizza..”
David began noticing a soreness in his shoulder when he returned home after spending New Year in Scotland with his dad, also called David MacMillan. He also had a cough, his mum said.
He put the pain down to an arm wrestle he had with his dad, and the cough down to vaping.
But as the weeks wore on David began to feel more unwell, and at the end of February Diane urged her son to see a doctor.
Unable to get a GP’s appointment David was seen by a nurse practitioner, who advised him to take paracetamol and Ibuprofen and referred him for physiotherapy.
But tragically weeks later the coronavirus lockdown began, and David never got his appointment.
“That was the middle of March,” Diane explained. “We were waiting for his physio appointment and by the middle of April nothing had happened.
Diane began to suspect something was seriously wrong when David lost a lot of weight, and became out of breath after walking
“He was always trying to lose weight, but he had lost a couple of stone,” she said. “Then at Easter he had gone to the shop and when he came back he was out of breath.
“Then suddenly everything fell into place for me. My first thought was it could be pneumonia. Covid wasn’t even in the mix for me because this had been going on for so long.”
Worried Diane, 54, insisted that her son see his GP the next day, and he was sent to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.
Within hours it was discovered that David had a tumour in his chest, which was diagnosed as a cancerous germ cell tumour.
As he began treatment, which doctors said had an 89% success rate, David and his family remained hopeful that he would beat the disease.
“Throughout this whole thing he was so positive,” said Diane. “He said he was going to fight all the way. He said he was going to get better, and he was going to go back to work.”
As the treatment began to take a toll on David he told his YouTube subscribers why he had not been uploading many videos recently.
In a post on his channel he wrote: “My health has took a turn for the worse. I’ve had a lot of muscular pain in my chest and back which I recently found out to be a tumour in my chest. I am currently in hospital under going chemotherapy surrounded by amazing health workers who I cannot thank enough and hopefully I will beat this in the coming months.
“Thank you to all my subscribers for making this channel bigger than I ever dreamed. I hope to be back.”
The post prompted scores of comments from well-wishers.
Diane said David was also comforted by the family’s dogs, Wreck It Ralph and Mini.
“It was as if the dogs were the only things that didn’t know he was unwell,” she said. “They cuddled him just because he was David.”
Despite battling bravely for months, at the end of September medics told David and his family the treatment was not working. And David was put on a ventilator to help him breath.
“David made the decision himself to be intubated,” Diane explained. “He was still fighting. He seen it as if he rested his body the chemo could work better.
“There was still hope, he wasn’t going to go down without a fight.”
But the following week David’s consultant told Diane that there was nothing more they could do for her son, and that his family should say their goodbyes.
David passed away in his mum’s arms on October 8.
Diane says she will always wonder whether things could have been different for David, as she pleads with all young men to take their health seriously.
“If you have got any concerns doctors would rather see you and say you are fine than miss something,” she said. “Young men often think they are invincible.”
David’s friends and family have set-up an online fundraising page in his memory to raise money for The Edward Foundation, an organisation that rescues and re-homes bulldogs.
Morpeth First School is also doing a harvest foodbank collection in his name.