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Living Not Existing

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Spencer first attended the Living Well Centre Veteran’s Service in late 2018. Here he shares how he found out about the service and how it has helped him and his family.

I want to share my story to ensure the community is aware of the amazing support our local hospice provides. And that veterans know about and use the Veteran Support Service.

In October 2017, I went for a routine eye test and my optician noticed that the pressure in my right eye was high. I was referred to St. Mary’s Drop-In Centre and put on a course of eye drops. Life carried on as normal until July 2018 when I was referred for an MRI scan as the pressure hadn’t gone down. It was then my life was turned upside down, as I found out I actually had two brain tumours, of which one was inoperable.

Last September they operated and took out as much of the larger tumour that they safely could. Subsequent reports confirmed it to be incurable grade 3 cancer. I don’t know how long I have left but the post op treatment I have had and am still having is to help prolong my life for as long as possible. I have an amazing wife, Jane and two fantastic sons, who are 18 and 23. One day I hope to see grandchildren. My plan is to live, not exist and that is what Rowans Veteran Services is helping me to do.

Discovering about Rowans Veterans Service
The day before my operation I did a long bike ride with two of my ex-military friends and we cycled past the Living Well Centre. I knew this place was here and that it was part of the Hospice but that was it. It was while I was in hospital that I picked up a leaflet about the Hospice Open Day so I came along. This is when I met Tina who heads up the Veterans Service and discovered how much was on offer in this lovely environment.

“The staff are all fab, when I come in I get ‘Hi Spencer’, which is really important because I am me: Spencer, not just a cancer patient.”

Having a laugh
I was apprehensive when I first came to the centre that Monday morning but learnt quickly that everyone coming here has got the same thing in common, a connection with life limiting illness, although maybe with a different set of circumstances.

Tina has been a font of knowledge, signposting me to the right services for me. Her nursing background has obviously really helped. I have met some great people, with great stories to tell, we have a laugh and it’s not doom and gloom it’s “Hey what did you do at the weekend?” You talk about normal things rather than having to explain that I have brain cancer.

Living Not Existing
I look forward to coming here every Monday. I want to see how Jim is doing, he is ex-Navy and has many a story of the seven seas to tell. I also go to the monthly Brain Tumour Support Group that meets at the LWC. More than that, I look forward to doing certain things, such as the complimentary therapies on offer. I am focused on others, what else I can get involved in and it’s when I do that I’m still living and not existing.

Here I also get that inspiration. It helps take my mind off things. My cancer is not going to go away but I can talk about other things like topical news or what it is going to be like outside in the spring. It’s a place I feel comfortable, the staff are all fab, when I come in I get “Hi Spencer” which is really important because I am me, Spencer, not just a cancer patient. This also all means Jane can go off to do what she wants to do, knowing I’m safe.

Appreciation
We all take so much for granted in our everyday life. Just waking up every day, speaking, vision and mobility. I also totally appreciate that this place doesn’t run on thin air. So I really advocate that if you can give a few moments of your time to be a companion or dip your hands in your pockets it is really helpful and will make a real difference if you do it.

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