THE only remarkable thing about Gerry Poole being 28 is that only just over a year ago he was told he would not reach that birthday.
Gerry, who lives in Walkley, was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach, oesophagus and the liver in January 2011 after complaining of feeling lethargic and experiencing stomach cramps.
“I’d always been fit and healthy but then I noticed my energy levels were low and I seemed to be anaemic too.
“At first they said it might just be a stomach ulcer but after the initial diagnosis of cancer I was given six months to live and then it was 12 months if I responded well to chemotherapy.”
That 12-month deadline has now passed, along with the 28th birthday, and although the former statistician and librarian – a graduate of Social Policy at Sheffield Hallam University who went on to study for a Masters in 20th Century history at the University of Sheffield – is no longer able to work, he does feel well enough at the moment to sign up for the St Luke’s Hospice Starlight Walk.
Now in its second year, the major fundraising event for Sheffield’s only hospice takes place on the evening of May 12 and covers a 5k route from Endcliffe Park to Forge Dam and back.
Last year’s event raised almost £70,000 and this year’s promises to be an even greater success and a major contributor to the £4m needed from the public annually to keep the hospice open.
The hospice’s excellent level of service is something Gerry has personal experience of for he is one of the many people throughout the city supported by the St Luke’s Community Nursing team.
“I was assigned a nurse, Shelagh Freeman, a few months ago when I was struggling with the pain,” Gerry says.
“She has given me practical hands on support and her levels of caring and expertise are outstanding – she understands my specific pain needs.”
Unable to work now or to follow his passion for music – he was the vocalist with city band Letters and Colours – Gerry, who lives with GP partner Rachel, devotes his time to campaigning for a fairer society via the media and his own blog site at sozdidthathurt.tumblr.com.
“People see me as a political person but really I just want to speak up while I can for people who are perhaps not so articulate, I want to be able to give people an insight into what is happening around them,” he says.
“I know I am coming to the end of my life and it would be good to leave something in place that could pave the way for a more caring society, a more just society – that’s what’s so important to me. I have a lot to say but I do have a time constraint because I am dying so I want to encourage people to ask the question why?
“I have no fear of death – I’m very pragmatic about that and very rational – but it would be good to think that when I do go I’ve at least left people something to think about.”
lStarlight Walk: www.stlukeshospice.org.uk; email firstname.lastname@example.org; tel 235 7594.