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The Life of Brian

Lingen Davies volunteer Martyn Bingham – who has himself been through cancer – talked to fellow cancer survivor Brian Cooke about his experiences undergoing treatment at the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre.

The Life of Brian - Story 4 | Lingen Davies

Family Support

It would be impossible to talk about Brian without including his wife, Cath. They are childhood sweethearts, golf buddies, and global travel partners: they come as one. However, as anyone who has been through cancer knows, even with your emotional rock with you, it can still be a very lonely experience.

Brian's Story

Brian’s story starts around ten years ago. At the time, he was happily enjoying a life combining his job in the building trade, his close family circle, and his numerous hobbies.

Like many who are diagnosed with cancer, in the back of Brian’s mind, he knew there was something wrong. He had been to the GP a number of times after initially finding blood in his stool. It had taken a series of tests over a period of months for Brian to receive the phone call that we all dread. Brian was called in by a Macmillan nurse and told that he had cancer.


Why Me?

If you have ever spoken to someone who has been through cancer, they will tell you that the time from the initial discovery of cancer to the full prognosis and following treatment plan, is the darkest time. This was true for Brian. He went through stages of anger and sleepless nights, and the inevitable, ‘why me’ question.

Discovering a Tumour

It was discovered that Brian had a large tumour in his stomach, but fortunately it had not spread any further. Brian’s treatment at the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre involved oral chemotherapy. These drugs are powerful and the aim is to reduce, or at best, to kill off the cancer completely, and it was the latter that was true for Brian.

Cancer Returns

This is where I would like to sign off and end the story; however, in one of the standard post treatment examinations it was found that the cancer had returned, and this time, it was much more aggressive.  As a consequence, the treatment this time needed to be more dramatic.

Brian had his stomach removed and when he came out of surgery he had a bigger situation to deal with. It was Cath’s 60th birthday! They celebrated together in his ward and the nurses were more than happy to pop to the shop for Brian and bring back an array of gifts. It was a memorable birthday for Cath, one that still brings tears to her eyes.

Effects of Cancer Treatment

Again, I would like to tell you that this is where Brian recovered fully and got on with his life. Unfortunately, this was not the case. In addition to the surgery, Brian was again given oral chemotherapy.

Previously, Brian had taken these drugs with few issues; however, without a stomach to process the drugs, he struggled with the side effects. They were burning him from the inside. He came off them after 18 months, but the damage had been done. Brian was now very poorly and lost a significant amount of weight. For the first time, Brian feared that he wouldn’t make it.


Gaining Weight

Brian went through months without making progress and continuing to lose weight. The breakthrough came from the most interesting and unexpected of products… At his daughter’s wedding – where a collection raised £400 for Lingen Davies – Brian noticed his granddaughter eating a white mouse sweet. “Get me one of those will you?” he asked.

After his first mouse, he was hooked. He found that white mice were both palatable and helped with weight gain. Over the following Christmas Brian moved on from white mice to boxes of Christmas treats. Still thin, he had finally turned a corner and was at last, improving.

Giving Something Back to Lingen

Still off work, Brian needed a focus during his recovery. He lives in the middle of the very scenic Shropshire countryside and wanted to combine a love of the outdoors, with a need to give back to all the staff at Lingen Davies who had helped him through his difficult time. His sons, Neil and Adam, have both raised money for the organisation through various charity runs as a payback for all the help Brian had been given.

Now it was Brian’s turn. He signed up for a 10k charity run.

Being Physically Fit

He had been very fit. His job required him to be physically active and his love of golf required him to spend hours walking around courses chasing that white ball. But that was then. Brian’s body was now very different. He wondered if it would deal with the grind of a run?


Starting Exercise Slowly

He started off slowly, walking around his garden, to jogging for a mile or two, until he was ready. . He had been very fit. His job required him to be physically active and his love of golf required him to spend hours walking around courses chasing that white ball. But that was then. Brian’s body was now very different. He wondered if it would deal with the grind of a run? He started off slowly, walking around his garden, to jogging for a mile or two, until he was ready.

Throughout all his health issues, Brian had had his family by his side, and this was no different. He embarked on his run with his two sons although he needed no motivation. He completed his run with ease, and consequently raised a significant amount of money for Lingen Davies Cancer Fund.

Brian's Story Now

If the white mice were a signal of recovery, then the completion of the run was a sign that Brian was edging back towards normality. Today, Brian looks a picture of health. He is back to playing and losing to Cath at golf, evidence that things are truly back to normal.

They regularly head off on global travels, and they are looking at Sri Lanka as being the next destination. And of course, Cath and his sons, Neil and Adam, and his daughter, Michelle, in addition to all the grandchildren, are central to Brian finding true happiness in life.

Reflecting on Lingen Davies

I asked Brian about his memories of the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre. He tells me that to work there takes a truly special individual. It is not a place that anyone can work. It is a place of suffering but the staff aim to make it a place of joy and recovery. He remembers in the early stage of his treatment he was still at work and was responsible for building the helipad at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.


Lingen Davies Nurses

The same nurses that would say good morning to him as he was working on the helipad would also be the ones saying good morning days later when administering the treatment. He also says with a smile that many of the female staff who helped him all those years ago were just girls at the time. They are now mothers and even grandmothers with their own families, which is a sign of the lifelong commitment and dedication of the staff at the Centre.


Brian's Advice

To finish, I asked Brian for any pieces of advice he has for others. He has two. If you suspect something, no matter how small, get it checked. Your mind tries to convince you that it is nothing but it is a consultant’s job to do that. The other is to make sure you live every day as if it is special because that is that what the Life of Brian now looks like.

Interested in Volunteering With Us?

If you would like to become a volunteer for Lingen Davies, get in touch! We would be more than happy to discuss how you can support us by volunteering.

Lingen Davies Team