IT’S been the year that Greg Gilbert’s family feared he might never see.

And he is looking forward to a New Year that he hopes will include a new Delays album, two exciting new art exhibitions, and his own wedding.

When the artist and musician from Southampton was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer that had spread to his lungs late last year, his fiancée Stacey Heale thought he might not see last Christmas.

She launched a huge fundraising campaign to pay for lifesaving treatment for him, not available on the NHS, which passed its initial £100,000 target in 48 hours, and has now raised more than double that sum, propelling the family into the spotlight.

This year, father-of-two Greg is looking forward to a more peaceful Christmas, free of the pain that had been plaguing him for recent years, with the immediate shock gone from his diagnosis.

And as the year comes to an end, the Delays frontman reflects on the rollercoaster that 2017 has been for him.

Earlier this year, he completed a course of chemotherapy, with very positive results, leaving him with no visible tumours.

His most recent scan showed that the tumours had begun to grow back, and he will be embarking on another course of chemotherapy early in the New Year.

“Having cancer has been a very steep learning curve,” says Greg.

“Chemotherapy is incredibly hard, but it is a release to be free of the pain for the first time in a couple of years.

“It is hanging over me that I have to start chemotherapy again in the New Year, but we were really hoping for a chemotherapy-free Christmas, and we have that, so we’re focusing on that.”

Greg and Stacey have not yet dipped into the funds raised, as his current treatment is available on the NHS.

“We want to make sure we don’t use the money if we don’t have to. That money may have to last my whole life, so we will be turning to it when the treatment options on the NHS aren’t so effective.

“Knowing that that money is there for us is so humbling. For all the trauma we’ve experienced over the last year, there is also a huge sense of gratitude, warmth and generosity.

“I never feel I can convey enough gratitude – words are not enough.

“I hope people understand the level of love and warmth I feel for everyone wo made that gesture.

“Believe me, if there was a super treatment that we could spend the money on, we’d do it in a heartbeat.”

Greg cannot speak highly enough of the NHS, and feels it is important that he uses the platform that he has to speak up for it.

“I don’t think there is any excuse for the money not to be there for the treatments that people need.

“I think the money is there, and our government seems able to find it when they want to, but in the meantime, people are dying.

“It scares me what I see happening to the NHS, with things like it being sued over a contract. I have to say how wonderful the NHS has been for us, with every aspect of the treatment and care I’ve received.”

Thanks to the treatment he has received he has recently felt well enough to do some ‘living room rehearsals’ with fellow members of Delays, and hopes that, if his energy levels are up to it, the band will be able to put out a new album in the New Year.

He is also looking forward to two exciting art exhibitions that he has coming up in 2018.

The last year has seen his creativity go into overdrive, with him writing and producing artwork at a pace.

“My work has become more emotive, my brain has been less involved,” he says.

“It’s been necessary to get it out of my system.

“It’s been part of my coping mechanism, to obsess about it, and think about writing and painting all the time.”

Greg also anticipated he and Stacey tying the knot in the New Year, in what he says will be a low-key ceremony, with family and friends.

And right now, he is looking forward to a peaceful Christmas, with Stacey, their girls, Dali and Bay, and their families.

“Last year I was in a state of deep shock.

“I do still feel echoes of that shock but I don’t feel like I’m on a precipice, and that in itself, is a relief.

“I’ve really learnt to live in the moment.

“Right now, I’m feeling good, and I’m looking forward to a relaxed and peaceful Christmas with the people I love.”