My name is George and for the last eight years I’ve lived with cancer. For the last four years I’ve done this with help and support from a lot of people, including the team at Cornwall Hospice Care.

In 1995 I took on the role of Group Building Maintenance Manager for Trago Mills. I first worked at Falmouth overseeing the modernisation of the store there and then I moved on to our site at Liskeard where I was involved in the lakeside extension for garden furniture and new offices. My biggest project came next, to build a garden park at our Newton Abbot store. It was an £11.5 million scheme.  

Life was good and then just a few months in to the project I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. I enjoy work so carried on while being treated. I have to say the support from Bruce, the owner of Trago Mills and my fellow staff was tremendous and I think that helped enormously. So here I was with an amazing project that was taking up to 100 hours a week at least and trying to fit in my medical appointments as well.

I did however, go through a bad time with a lot pain and Wendy at the Sunrise Centre recommended I get in touch with a specialist nurse. I had days when I almost had to crawl up the stairs because of the back pain.  These people that I was beginning to meet started to make me a lot more comfortable.

The garden project opened in 2005 and not long after that I deteriorated and had to go on to chemotherapy. I went back to work but I then suffered five major infections so was rushed in to hospital on numerous occasions. I’d go straight back to work each time, but then I started to have radiotherapy as well and I really did become ill and it was then that I was referred to Mount Edgcumbe Hospice. 

“I was told I had two years but that was four years ago and I’m sure the hospice has played a major part in that.

I was very apprehensive but the minute I walked in and was shown to my bed the pressure went and things were just lifted. I felt so much more at ease. I knew people around me cared and I ended up being there for 15 days. It was all fantastic, especially the treatment I got.

On the very last day, I realised I needed Lymphoedema treatment on the whole of my leg (I had only needed it for the top of the leg before). Helen, the Lymphoedema nurse came on to the ward and I called her over and told her of my situation and asked about the hosiery I was wearing to help ease the issue. She explained what I had was unsuitable and immediately took measurements for new hosiery and then treated my leg. I then started going to Barbara at St Julia’s Hospice for on-going treatment one day a week and now Helen looks after me at Mount Edgcumbe and she’s fantastic.  

George, pictured receiving Lymphoedema treatment from Lymphoedema nurse, Helen, at Mount Edgcumbe Hospice.

I enjoy my work but then I collapsed due to pushing myself too hard, I had gone past the point of exhaustion. In fact I was in a horrendous state.   But the team at Mount Edgcumbe were fantastic and got me back on the straight and narrow. However I wasn’t strong enough physically or mentally to take the chemotherapy I needed so together we worked on building me back up. 

It was arranged for me to have a nursing team at home and that got me a bit better but the chemo was awful and I went to hell and back really, with days when I couldn’t get out of the chair. 

“the hospice is like my second home

From January to May of this year I guess I had between seven and ten good days, the rest were pretty bad
. Then I developed another infection and pneumonia. I went back in to hospital but they wouldn’t release me to the hospice until I was well enough to be transferred. We worked hard to get me to that point and eventually I had two weeks in Mount Edgcumbe and after several long chats with key people I decided to give up on the chemo. The quality of life wasn’t there and so I stopped and with lots of help I picked up. In fact I had a pretty good summer. But now I face the chemotherapy again and I know there’s tough times ahead, but I have the hospice team beside me.

I have to say the family support is also amazing. When we first went to the hospice my wife Chris found the nicest thing was that she could leave her work in Truro and order a meal and then drive up and we could sit and eat together and that meant a lot to us both. She could relax at the hospice and she felt the pressure had gone. She knew I was being cared for and she could be my wife, not my carer or the worrier. We know the people, we recognise them and get to understand them. The care for us all is second to none.

My wider family think it’s a marvellous place too. My son and daughter both dropped everything to be with me the first time and now they have tremendous admiration for the hospice, they know I’m in the best place when I’m there.  It’s like a big family with all the staff knowing you and supporting you. I get on so well with all of them. I think they feel they can have fun with me and of course they see me all the time.

                     George and Chris celebrate a wedding anniversary with their family

I was told I had two years but that was four years ago and I’m sure the hospice has played a major part in that.  The support from everyone, including work, has helped. But the hospice is like my second home. Both my medical and mental needs have been addressed, so without the hospice I don’t think I would be here today.

I know there are dark times ahead but with the hospice behind you you don’t fear in the same way. It’s knowing you’ve got that massive support behind you that takes the fear away and gives you more opportunity to fight the illness, and the confidence to face it. They’ll worry about what’s round the corner so you can face the day, and I take every day as it comes and enjoy myself as much as I can.

All this has given me time to indulge in my passion for sailing. I’ve always loved sailing and when things got a bit worse this time the family decided we should get a bigger boat rather than me sailing my smaller boat on my own. (picture to the left shows George on his old boat, when he featured in Cornwall Hospice Care's summer newsletter in 2011)

It’s been great this summer. I always wanted to sail to Scilly and we achieved that this year and in fact we’ve done lots, going to Fowey and other places. Given the poor start to my year, it’s been great to enjoy the summer. Special moments have been achieved and that’s thanks to the hospice team. Quality of life is really important to me now and that’s what I’ve enjoyed. Good friends have helped too.

I know I’m surrounded by people who are looking out for me and keep an eye on me and my problems. They’ve picked me up off the floor several times and now they monitor me constantly.

It’s been a long old haul, this is the eighth year of my cancer now and my fifth year with the hospice. I don’t feel angry about the disease. I’m annoyed it wasn’t picked up early but that’s history, but without this illness I wouldn’t have met these wonderful people. Before my cancer I didn’t realise there were such caring people around who want to help, who want to be here for folk like me. It’s a privilege to know them and I also know the hospice is where I hope and want to complete my journey.  

You can watch George's story below:

You Tube Video

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