Patient story – Brandon Utley
When I first got diagnosed with cancer, it was skin cancer, and it was just in one place. And they started with the chemotherapy and eventually they found it was in my spine.
It’s treatable, as in they can treat me… they’ve got some drugs that should work for about four years, but I have to get my affairs in order in those four years, get my bucket list together – so to speak.
How did you react to the diagnosis?
The walls literally closed in on me. I felt like they were. I lost interest in life. And recovery didn’t really bother me, because living had lost it’s edge.
I don’t mean that I was suicidal. I was more apathetic. I didn’t care one way or the other. I was in so much pain and discomfort that I couldn’t see past it.
What was it like at the hospice?
And then I came here, for my first week. In fact the first day of the first week… realising everybody was so, so nice. I remember thinking to myself ‘How come I had to get so ill to meet such nice people, such honest people?’
Care, love – the lot of it. Everything is here. It’s wonderful. I have tried to explain to so many people what this feeling is like here. And I can’t. There isn’t words to describe it.
I’ve had a couple of friends come and visit, a worker and a friend come and visit, because they didn’t understand. And they came to visit the place and they were like… [mimes being lost for words]
What difference has the hospice made to you?
Had I not been coming here, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, if I’d not been coming here I’d be just sat in that one place, in that room, with the four walls closing in, and waited until it was over.
This place has given me a new meaning. I’ve been told I’m going to die and this place has made me joyous about… well not about it, but it’s put some joy in my step.
Everybody’s got something they can contribute. And once they do that, once all the members of a community get together, there’s nothing that can’t be done.
I’d wish I’d known before. I’d have become part of it – before this happened to me.
What have you learned from this illness?
Just meeting the people that are here – that’s going to teach you. Not necessarily just the staff, but the other people that are dealing with cancer. There’s nobody better to empathise with you than someone that’s going through it.
I know for sure that you learn a lot more through the hard times in life than you do through the good. You know, the good days flash by in the blink of an eye. The bad days… they might be bad, but you learn. And you remember those lessons.
What’s most important now in your life?
Dying isn’t the end. Dying might happen in four years, but it’s not about that. It’s about what I do between now and then. Between now and then I can find things to learn.
And maybe there’s something that I can pass on. You know, if someone comes in who’s been in the same situation as me (well not the same – everyone’s different) but if I can pass on a word of wisdom that’s going to help somebody else, then that’s an achievement.
I can tick that off on a sheet and say ‘look, I’ve tried and I’ve helped’. If someone’s taken it then I’m good with that. Just to help one person… I’m good with that.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
This place is full of people that care. You know, like we said, they are volunteers most of them. And we’re not just talking about any staff, we’re talking about nurses, there’s a doctor I think that comes in and volunteers.
These are people that are qualified. They could charge money, but they volunteer and help. It’s mind blowing.
Like I say, I don’t feel that I deserve it. But deserve is nothing. None of us deserve (without trying to get too faith-orientated) none of us deserve mercy. But we’re all entitled to it eventually.
We all get it, and we get it from each other. And that’s what props us all up.
Please help us care for more people like Brandon
Join us for a beautiful sponsored walk by the sea on Bank Holiday Monday 29th MayFind out more about the sponsored walk
A bedroom in our respite unit:
- Find out more about making a referral
- Learn more about our inpatient respite service
- Join a fundraising event
- Sponsor a hospice nurse