Rich has faced cancer six times and is determined to show cancer "who is boss". Penny Brohn UK reignited his belief in himself and his ability to live well with the disease.
"I strongly believe that Penny Brohn UK will change your life, doctors should introduce patients to them immediately after diagnosis."
My message to everyone is – dictate to cancer, don’t let cancer dictate to you. I’ve just got past my sixth round of cancer in around five years, so am living proof that you can live well with the disease.
Cancer has knocked me for six – six times. I was diagnosed in the ear, neck, lung and three times in the brain. I lost hope, I started to stop believing in myself, so the biggest thing Penny Brohn UK did was to reignite my belief in myself and that cancer was something I could deal with. After this, others, especially my wonderful family started to believe in me. Penny Brohn UK has become an essential ally in my mission to show cancer who is boss.
Initially, in 2009, I thought it was just earache, but something was different, so I went to the doctors. To my utter surprise, they discovered a thumbnail-sized cancerous tumour.
I didn’t see it coming. I underwent 12 hours of surgery to remove tissue and cartilage, including my ear canal, eardrum and salivary gland. I lost a lot of facial movement – I cannot smile and close my eye. This doesn’t really bother me because I have two children and the consequences of not removing the tumour are unthinkable. I began six weeks of radiotherapy to try to stop the cancer returning. Doctors said I would not be able to work for most of the year, but I returned to work six months after my diagnosis.
I heard about Penny Brohn UK and came to the National Centre to see how they could help. I took about half-a-year to get my head around what was happening. Thankfully, Penny Brohn was there to teach me to question some of the negativity surrounding my future. It was such a relief – they understood what was going on. I didn’t have to explain anything and was reassured that I was not the first person to walk in facing what I was. I have always relied on the old-school mentality of ‘I’m going to win no matter what”, and Penny Brohn helped remind me of that.
I really benefited from their massage, reflexology, acupuncture and takeaway techniques. I was so impressed with Penny Brohn, I quickly wanted to do something to thank them. So, I took on their Inca Trail in Peru, which included three mountain passes, one at 4,200m. Then, despite being partway through chemo, I ran my first Bristol 10k in 2014, raising £2,500 for the charity. I felt a buzz, so ran the following year’s Bristol 10k with my son Ryan – just six weeks after Gamma Knife brain surgery, which focused radiation beams on my tumour. I even trained by running 8km, two to three times a week, past Penny Brohn’s Centre in Pill. I’ve always tried to keep fit, but never particularly liked running, it’s more about keeping mentally fit – healthy body, healthy mind. I’m delighted to have raised over £16,000 for the charity that has a special place in my heart.
I strongly believe that Penny Brohn UK will change your life, doctors should introduce patients to them immediately after diagnosis. I will not let cancer win – it’s my life and body, and it’s not welcome. Cancer is such a dark world – it’s great to have Penny Brohn reminding me that there can be a bright future. The charity’s approach teaches many things, lift spirits and positivity as you face cancer and dark times. I love the charity and dogs, so to celebrate finishing my latest radiotherapy course – I got a bullmastiff and named her Penny.