Family stories

Brian’s story

Brian has been diagnosed with cancer three times, lost his hearing in one ear and lived his entire life with a severe sight impairment. So when it comes to his health, Brian is no stranger to hardship.

With the support of his soulmate Karen, Brian has learned to cope with many of these challenges and has developed an inspiring knack for looking at the glass half full.

When I was told my cancer was incurable, and I had months to short years to live, I felt numb.

My wife Karen felt exactly the same and for a couple of weeks afterwards we both struggled to process the reality of what we had been told. It might sound strange, but I think it was our defence mechanisms kicking in.

“I couldn’t fully share my worries and fears”

I was born with a severe sight impairment, then at the age of 50 I lost my hearing in one ear due to a benign brain tumour. At the age of 59 I was diagnosed with curable HPV tonsil cancer which was successfully treated. Unfortunately, less than a year later, I was told that the same cancer had spread to my lungs. All of these life experiences have helped me to develop strategies to cope with life’s challenges.

After those first couple of weeks I reflected, and came to a point of accepting (although not liking) the diagnosis. I realised that I had to find a way to cope with what this meant for me and my family. My friends and family were obviously all struggling with my diagnosis, and I was conscious that many of them will have someone in their lives who they have lost to cancer.

Two pictures - one with a man and woman smiling at the camera, and another where the same man and woman smile with a drink at a pub

“When I arrived at the Hospice for the first time, I was terrified”

I did not want to upset people but that meant I couldn’t fully share my worries and fears. The person I shared my feelings with most was Karen, my wife. We’re soulmates. We’ve been married for 35 years and we’ve been together for 37. We have two wonderful grown up children and we have been through a lot together.

When I was referred to St Barnabas House, I decided to take them up on the offer of counselling sessions. When I arrived at the Hospice for the first time, I was terrified. I had no idea of what to expect. It really caught me out. I needn’t have worried though as it is a very warm and welcoming environment full of lovely people.

My counselling sessions are an opportunity to talk about the things that are really playing on my mind. I can let all of my emotions, anxieties, and stresses out. My time with Maggie my counsellor is absolutely invaluable. The counselling sessions have changed my entire outlook.

“Everybody should have someone to talk to”

When I first came to the Hospice my focus was on death. I was just getting myself ready to die. What the counselling sessions have enabled me to do is to now focus on living. I have started to enjoy life, embracing every day and really understanding what is important and precious to me.

We’re talking about booking a holiday. I can spend my time doing the things I love. I’m looking forward to getting back into my gardening as the weather warms up, and I’m going to have a go at running again.

This strong positive mind-set really helps, not only me, but all of my family and friends too. If anyone was thinking about talking to someone and taking up counselling sessions, I would say “do it!”

Not just because you have cancer, everybody should have somebody to talk to.

Being able to access counselling sessions through the Patient and Family support team at St Barnabas House has been amazing.