What it’s like to live with a terminal illness

“I don’t just think about myself,” says Paul Nolan, who is living with chronic heart failure. “But about other people and how they might be feeling.”

Paul’s determined to live life to the full. His doctor says he’s a “phenomenon of life”.

Paul Nolan
Paul Nolan

“A good day to me is being alive,” says Paul.

“I wake up, look around and say to myself: ‘I’m still here’.

“I’m very open about my illness. If I’ve got something to say I’ll say it. I believe when it’s health and involves your family you’ve got to be upfront.

“Marie Curie has helped me immensely. I’m not scared and I understand myself more.”

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness

Paul’s health problems started on 30 December 2005 when he had a heart attack while on holiday in the Dominican Republic. In March 2006 he had an emergency five-way bypass.

Unfortunately, Paul continued to get symptoms after the surgery. He was diagnosed with Chronic Heart Failure.

He’s unable to have a heart transplant and was told that his condition is terminal.

“In all honesty the way my condition was explained to me I shouldn’t be alive today.”

My doctor is surprised each time I see him

“I don’t see my cardiologist anymore, as he said: ‘there’s not much point bringing you in every six months to say there’s nothing I can do for you.’

“But the last time I went to see him, I walked in and I could see the shock on his face that I was still alive.

“I said, ‘you’re shocked to see me aren’t you?’ And he said, ‘actually Paul, I am’.

“He said: ‘You’re one of those phenomena of life. By rights you shouldn’t be here.’ And this was a few years ago and I’m still hanging on!”

What it’s like going to a hospice

Paul and Marie Curie Nurse Emma at Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool
Paul and Marie Curie Nurse Emma at Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool

“I was quite an active type of person before my heart attack. I love my sports and watching television.

“At the Marie Curie Hospice, Liverpool you can do courses at the gym in the Day Therapy Unit. I enjoy doing a bit of exercise. 

“They have exercise and relaxation groups, all sorts of things.

“I’ll admit I was very apprehensive when I first went to the Marie Curie Hospice. Because you always associate Marie Curie with death. And when you go into a hospice you think, well, that’s it.

“Marie Curie has helped me think not just about myself, but about other people and how they might be feeling.”

"I was pleasantly surprised with the way they dealt with and spoke to me. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I’ve met a lot of really lovely people over the years by going up there.

“At the hospice you’re with people who have different illnesses, but nobody really speaks about their illness.

“That probably doesn’t sound like what you’d expect someone to say about a hospice!”

By supporting the Great Daffodil Appeal you can help people living with a terminal illness, like Paul, get the support they need. 

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