Brian’s Story

From hell to a happy place – Cancer patient finds lifeline in a phone call

Scotsman Brian Whitton of Poplar has survived cancer 13 times, been temporarily paralysed and cheated death twice, but nothing will keep him away from his grandchildren.

The possibility of walking with grandson Oliver, three months old, was a pipe dream two years ago when Brian had a 25 percent chance of recovering from his cystoprostatectomy – surgery which removes the urinary bladder and prostate gland.

Now he walks and even plays football with grandson Tyler, 12, who is not a blood relative, but Brian says he would “give all my blood to him in a heartbeat”.

Brian and his ex-wife Alison have devoted their lives to Tyler as his legal carers since Tyler first showed signs of mental problems at birth.

The couple were encouraged by a neighbour to contact ScotsCare, a charity that supports Scottish families throughout Greater London, when Tyler needed supplies of clothes and school uniforms. They continued to receive unwavering support from the charity throughout their separation and when Brian began cancer treatment five years ago.

“They’ve just been incredible,” Brian said of the charity. “When I think they’ve done everything they can, they do more. It allows me to focus on Tyler and that’s what’s really important.”

Brian’s cosy Poplar flat is a reminder of how different his life was until ScotsCare stepped in. Five years ago he found himself in a “dark place”, ill with cancer and newly divorced in an empty “purple” council flat.

“There were no carpets, not even a lightbulb. I thought ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do?’ I was in hell or something. So I thought ‘Maybe I should call ScotsCare’.”

A team member arrived within days and the place was transformed with fitted carpets, tables and chairs, a couch, orthopaedic double bed, bedroom furniture, a separate fridge, freezer, washing machine and cutlery – all new.

“My life became a hell of a lot better from then on,” he said. “I’m incredibly grateful. Their resources may be limited but they’ve never, ever said no.

“Everything seems to be dead easy for them. I know a few people in the area who have been in touch with them and everybody holds them in high esteem.”

ScotsCare helped further with Brian’s travel costs to see his ailing sister in Glasgow, and every Thursday morning he receives a call from ScotsCare volunteer Willie, a “top guy” who rings to check in on him, regardless of holidays or where Willie is.

Brian is cancer-free and doing well, but still has check-ups each month in case the cancer comes back a 14th time. He was well enough to attend the UK-based PGL outbound holiday camp for families PGL adventure camp last year, organised each year by ScotsCare and the pair hope to return later this year.

Brian said he often wondered “How long does your luck hold out? My willpower is extremely strong. It has to be. I want to stay alive for one reason and that’s Tyler. The rest of it’s rubbish. The doctor appointments, the hospital appointments. I’ve been legally dead twice, my lungs completely collapsed and I woke up in hospital. I was paralysed. I’ve been involved in total madness.”

Through it all, Brian knows ScotsCare is always there for him.  He says, “I just can’t believe what they’ve done. They’re just a lifeline, an absolute lifeline.”