When Richard Preston, from Waterlooville, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2013, he was told he had just two years to live.
Five years on and Richard is living life to the full and will soon be celebrating his 50th birthday – a day he thought he would never see.
‘I just take everyday as it comes,’ he smiles.
Richard, who lives with his wife Wendy, was a technical specialist at KCOM before he was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).
However his life was turned upside down when his treatment began.
‘There are four categories of brain tumour and mine is the worst one: grade four.
‘I’ve been told it may have been there for many years, before something accelerated the speed at which it grew,’ explains Richard.
On average, just 20 per cent of brain tumour patients survive for five years or longer post-diagnosis.
‘I endured a five-hour, high-risk operation, followed by 11 gruelling months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy,’ says Richard, who will celebrate his 50th birthday in March.
‘My diagnosis was an awful reminder of how fragile and cruel life can be and, because of this, I’m determined to make the most of every day I have on Earth.’
Although Richard’s chemotherapy and radiotherapy has got him where is he today, the after-effects have left him with daily struggles.
‘While I’m one of the minority of patients to have lived for five years after my diagnosis, the effects of this treatment are long-term.
‘My sleeping pattern has been badly impacted and as a result I can no longer continue my work.
‘I also suffer from short-term memory problems which massively affect my daily life,’ he says.
‘Despite the difficult days, I’m keen to celebrate the fact I’m still here.’
And earlier this year, Richard did just that with 65 friends and family at Chichester Park Hotel.
‘The evening also marked our fifth wedding anniversary. Wendy and I got married just three weeks after I finished my radiotherapy, after being together for 25 years, and I’m so thankful to Wendy for being by my side every step of the way,’ smiles Richard.
‘I can’t imagine what she’s had to deal with.’
For many, a devastating prognosis would stop them in their tracks.
But Richard has vowed to push negativity aside and welcome everything that life throws at him.
‘I just keep doing what I’m doing. I’m trying to give myself the best chance,’ he adds.
When asked what he would say to someone who was diagnosed with GBM, he says: ‘You have to be positive because you can’t be anything else.
‘If I’m negative, I’m stuffed.
‘But I wouldn’t recommend anyone to start long books,’ he jokes.
From Venice to Istanbul and Paris to Hawaii, the Prestons have filled the last three years with unforgettable experiences.
Last summer, the couple explored Hawaii and also went on a helicopter trip across volcanic mountains. Richard, who describes it as ‘unforgettable’, says seeing lava for the first time was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him.
‘I want to see more of the world. All I can do now is collect memories.
‘We only book one holiday at a time. This year we’re going to Vietnam and Cambodia in August.’
In the darkest of times, Richard and Wendy have worked tirelessly with the Brain Tumour Research charity to raise awareness of the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40.
The charity funds four dedicated Research Centres of Excellence in the UK, including one at the University of Portsmouth.
And on March 29, schools, businesses and individuals across Portsmouth will be signing up to the charity’s annual Wear A Hat Day.
The fundraiser will see people across the region and around the UK don their hats in support of Brain Tumour Research.
‘The charity means so much to me.
‘They’re always there for me,’ explains Richard.
Tim Green, senior community fundraising manager for Brain Tumour Research in the South East, says: ‘We hope that Richard inspires people to take part in Wear A Hat Day to help find a cure for this merciless disease.’
‘He is remarkable and, despite having to come to terms with such awful news, remains positive in his outlook on life.’
Here are some hard-hitting facts from Brain Tumour Research:
Brain tumours are indiscriminate - they can affect anyone at any age.
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.
Historically, just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours.
In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumours. There are estimated to be about 60,000 people living with a brain tumour.
Brain tumours kill more children than leukaemia.
Brain tumours kill more men under 45 than prostate cancer.
Brain tumours kill more women under 35 than breast cancer.
Less than 20 per cent of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50 per cent across all cancers.
Brain Tumour Research is changing this by building a network of experts in sustainable research while influencing the government and larger cancer charities to invest more nationally.
There are more than 120 different types of brain tumour.
More information can be found at braintumourresearch.org.uk/