As seen on Loose Women - meet Philip and Cian

Marie Curie is delighted to have been chosen as one of six charities to benefit from ITV’s Christmas fundraising appeal, Text Santa. The appeal will help fund the expansion of the Marie Curie Helper service, which currently operates in ten regions across the UK. As part of the appeal Philip, and his Helper volunteer Cian, appeared on Loose Women last week. Here is their full story.

Philip has been meeting up with his Marie Curie Helper volunteer for almost six months and looks forward to their long chats and occasional outings to the park and local shops. They enjoy discussing current affairs and Cian says Philip has lots of interesting stories to tell about his life, from growing up in Guyana to visiting the then USSR out of curiosity about socialism.

Help through the toughest time

Philip will turn 79 this month and has six great-grandchildren. He was diagnosed with cancer last year and had to undergo a gruelling round of chemotherapy which left him weighing just over seven stone. “The moment someone mentions cancer, you are thinking about death. It feels like you are one step closer to the graveyard,” Philip says. “It was very harsh treatment and you are changed by it. It changes your idea of yourself.” Philip lives in sheltered accommodation in East London and he finds Cian’s weekly visits bring him out of himself. “This is a good place to live but if I go outside, I am only going to talk to other old people. All we talk about is our aches and pains, but having Cian here is different. He brings something fresh to my daily life.”

Developing a friendship

Cian, who is 25 years old, moved to London from Wexford in Ireland five years ago and is currently studying for his PhD in Biomedicine at UCL. He wanted to volunteer where he would have the opportunity to develop a friendship with someone and the Marie Curie Helper service appealed for this reason. Cian says, “It struck me as in interesting work to do, to be invited into somebody’s life and to just be involved in that way. I was surprised about how open he [Philip] was and how friendly right from the start.”

Both Philip and Cian say they don’t notice their more than half century age gap. “The Helper service matches you through your common interests and we have a lot to talk about,” Cian says. “I don’t think about his age, we just get on and are a good match. I think of him as my friend.” Philip adds, “I look forward to Cian coming here, we talk and sometimes we go to the shops, or to the park. The days can be long on your own so I look forward to him coming to visit, he is such a nice fella.” Philip’s daughter Charlotte, who visits him every week, says, “They have such a nice bond and have really gelled. The Helper service really does make such a difference and I like knowing that Cian is visiting him the times when he might otherwise be just on his own.”