A local democracy reporter has been diagnosed with incurable lung cancer just four days after receiving his first coronavirus vaccination.
George, who covers Sandwell and Dudley for the website under the BBC-funded scheme, used the piece to urge readers to continue “thinking of others” during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 62-year-old has since thanked colleagues and contacts for their support since his diagnosis.
George wrote: “We are all going to die sometime and the worth of our days is measured by how we act – and we can still work together to save each other. Four days after getting my first Covid jab I was diagnosed with advanced, incurable lung cancer.
“Like everyone, when I got the vaccine I started to hope for the future, plan holidays, look forward to hugging loved ones again and generally begin to enjoy life once more. Then out of the blue I had to start thinking ‘How do I tell my wife, family and friends?’
“Covid has dominated our lives for more than a year now and has controlled where you can go, who you can see and even who you can touch.
“When I got my diagnosis that all ended for me. In an absurd irony even I’ve had to laugh that I got the life-saving jab only to go and catch the wrong bloody illness. But at least I don’t have to worry about catching a life-threatening disease anymore – I’ve brought my own.”
George went on to hit out at those he termed “the absoluters”, citing the example of those who marched against coronavirus restrictions in London on Saturday.
He wrote: “Some say Covid is a hoax, some said it’s no worse than common flu, some say it’s an attempt by the state to take away our freedoms to choose how we live our lives, while others just repeat the latest conspiracy on the internet.
“The good thing about believing in absolute truths is without the need for proof you can have as many of them as you want at any given time, even if they contradicted each other.
“I don’t know what affect my decision to continue social distancing and to have the second jab will have on others. I do know that by thinking of others, by listening and not prejudging, by continuing to make small sacrifices for the benefit of us all, we can all save lives.”
George added: “The decisions I make in my remaining time will probably have little impact but our actions on behalf of each other can.
“As an individual it is too late for me but together we can save each other. As a community this is our chance, let’s not balls it up.”
George previously worked as a freelance photographer before turning to journalism in his forties, working at the Walsall Advertiser for 10 years.
After being made redundant from the Advertiser, he spent some time working in public relations before taking on his current job.
Speaking to HTFP, he said: “I’m very grateful for the support of my family and loved ones, and the support I’ve had from my colleagues has been humbling.
“I’ve loved journalism and being a journalist for years, and the reason I loved it is the people I worked with. They’ve been terrific.
“It’s also been pleasing to get feedback from health professionals who have read it and said that it’s an important piece in telling people that Covid hasn’t gone away, and we need to keep on with the safety procedures we’ve got.
“It’s nice to have the support of the professionals with whom I’ve been working quite closely over the last year such as directors of public health. To get their support has been gratifying.”
George went on to thank his employers for their support, including Reach plc democracy editor Yakub Qureshi and Paul Melloy-Kemp, local democracy content editor for Reach in the West Midlands.
He added: “They’ve really been supportive and gone out of their way to help me since it started four or five weeks ago when I had the initial tests, and then last week when it was confirmed.”
Paying to tribute to George and his piece on Twitter, Yakub wrote: “George is one of the most committed journalists I know – someone who truly loves what he does every day and is a huge credit to our profession.
“This is a brave, unflinching article which tells you everything you need to know about his strength of character.”