When Paul was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer it came as a huge shock as he didn’t have any of the typical symptoms and lived a healthy lifestyle. Paul’s diagnosis devastated his whole family. His daughters were only 12 and 18. A few months later, Paul started chemotherapy. The treatment left him feeling like a zombie and it took every ounce of his strength to return for each round.

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Paul’s brother told him about Penny Brohn UK, a charity that supports people to live well with cancer. After attending a Penny Brohn UK Living Well course, Paul realised that there were things he could do to help himself. He finished Living Well feeling euphoric and went home with ways to change his diet and exercise. Paul returned for The Approach and Reconnect courses and learnt that he was an expert in his own disease, which gave him great strength when meeting with his oncologists at the hospital.

‘If you had told me that I could live well with cancer I’m not sure I’d have believed you,’ says Paul. ‘But in so many ways it’s true. I feel like I have been given permission to be myself again. I don’t feel my life is dominated by a medical approach, my focus has shifted towards me and what I can do for myself. It hasn’t been easy, so many of the changes cancer brings are utterly terrifying and I wouldn’t have made it this far without Penny Brohn UK.’

‘Coming to Penny Brohn UK has helped change my thought process. I now realise there are things I can do to help myself and the medical approach is just one part’


They recognise that people affected by cancer need more than medicine. They see each person as a unique individual with their own set of hopes and needs. There is more to health than simply what is going on in our bodies and to be resilient and to function as well as we can, we need to pay attention to our mental, emotional and spiritual health as well as our physical health. Through free courses, one-to-one therapies and group sessions people living with cancer can explore areas like diet, exercise, emotions, relationships and managing stress.

Penny Brohn UK’s approach to health resonates with our approach at Nesta, where we believe health and care is about much more than medicine. People are healthier and recover faster when they feel part of something bigger, when their social health needs are met, and not just their clinical needs. That’s why we worked with Penny Brohn UK as part of our Realising the Value programme, delivered in partnership with The Health Foundation, National Voices and others. Realising the Value aimed to enable people to take an active role in their own health and care. This programme was run in support of the NHS Five Year Forward View vision to develop a new relationship with people and communities.

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