Penny Brohn UK

Help change life with cancer. For good

Mark’s story

Mark heard about Penny Brohn UK at an open day at his local hospital. After a cancer diagnosis and two back to back surgeries he was grateful to receive the tools he needed to manage the stress and anxiety he experienced.

"Penny Brohn UK helped me put things in perspective and helped me adjust to the aftershock of having been diagnosed with cancer and having gone through two major operations one after the other."


Shortly after I turned 61, I was diagnosed with cancer. It came as a shock as I was attending our local hospital, St Richards in Chichester, for what I thought was a routine colonoscopy. I had one a year before and they had removed some polyps and so I was surprised when the doctor operating the scope appeared to have found something of concern. I was asked to wait behind after the procedure and advised that they had found what seemed to be a tumour and they would like to do some further tests. One of these was a CT scan which revealed I also had a lump on my kidney. I was sent for further tests to see if this was benign or cancerous which included a biopsy and a radiation scan of the kidney after being injected with radioactive solution.

Both lumps turned out to be cancer and I was advised the best solution would be surgery. This would be done in two separate operations. The first operation was a hemicolectomy to remove the part of the colon with the tumour. Luckily the tumour was towards the right hand side which meant they could remove the length of bowel through keyhole surgery without the need for a stoma as the left side would be retained. The surgeon reassured me by saying that we have approximately 30 feet of bowel so we can manage quite well without a couple of feet.

I was admitted to hospital just before Christmas and had the operation. The most worrying time I found was waiting to go into the operating theatre. I arrived early in the morning and got dressed in the gown and tight socks but didn’t go in until the afternoon. Once the anaesthetic had worn off, I was on a ward and able to get up and walk around without too much pain the next day. As it was coming up to Christmas I think they were trying to empty the ward as quickly as possible and I was sent home after four nights. The operation left a small scar about 10 cm long across my stomach and a couple of other small 1 cm scars but nothing major.

I was then referred to Frimley Park Hospital for the kidney and was told that they recommended a robot assisted partial nephrectomy. I returned in April to have this carried out. This was again keyhole surgery but this time it was undertaken by a remote controlled robot and it removed a 4 cm clear cell renal carcinoma from my kidney. I must have looked worried again when I was waiting to go into the operating theatre as the surgeon kindly told me not to worry as they would take good care of me; which I though was a nice personal touch.

When I woke up on the ward I felt fine and a neighbouring patient told me I was lucky to be in my bed because the previous occupier had put a lot of credit on the TV which I would be able to use! However, the doctor came round later on and said I could go home the next day, which was great but I never got to use the credit! Once I returned home the pain came and my body turned various shades of purple around the wound. This took several days to subside and left several small scars, each 3-4 cm long on my left side above my hip. No stitches were used or dressings on either operation so the wounds healed quite quickly.

I was advised to take things easy for six weeks which was difficult as I am a fairly active person. As soon as this the six weeks had passed I started playing tennis and cycling again with no difficulty. I am still not going 100% flat out but building up to it over the next few months.

Living Well at Penny Brohn UK

I heard about Penny Brohn UK at a cancer open day at St Richard’s Hospital where cancer patients were invited to hear about the various community services available in the district. I listened to a speaker from Penny Brohn UK talk on the charity and what they did and thought it sounded very interesting. I decided to attend a Living Well course at the National Centre, near Bristol. My wife, who had become a carer by default, came with me. It was a residential two-day course and covered many different aspects of life with cancer.

I was having difficulty coming to terms with having cancer as it had all happened so suddenly and I had previously been in good health. Penny Brohn UK helped me put things in perspective and helped me adjust to the aftershock of having been diagnosed with cancer, and having gone through two major operations one after the other. The shock of being diagnosed had left me with anxiety and difficulty sleeping; both of which Penny Brohn UK helped me to address through relaxation and mindfulness techniques. After attending the course I felt more at ease with myself and was able to sleep better. I left with good intentions about changing to a healthy diet, doing more exercise and getting more involved in my local community.

One of the great things about attending the Living Well course was meeting other people who all had different experiences and came from different walks of life all over the country and to discuss the issues with them. It made me feel that it wasn’t just me and that it can happen to anyone at any time. I realised how lucky I was to have been diagnosed relatively early and hopefully the surgery will have removed the cancer. Although there is always the worry that it will come back. But if it does, it is good to know that there are organisations such as Penny Brohn UK which can be relied upon for support and help when you need it most.

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