A TERMINAL cancer patient paid tribute to a hospice which he says has given him a new lease of life.

David Shirra was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs linked to the asbestos he worked with as a young docker, in late 2007.

He said St Helena's hospice day care centre at Jackson Road, Clacton, has taught him how to cope with his condition, and allowed him to enjoy his remaining time.

The 71-year-old, of Princes Road, Holland, said: “I am sure that a lot of people out there think of a hospice as a place to go to die, but it is not.

“They have been a lifesaver to me.

“If I hadn't come to the hospice, I don't think I would be so happy and relaxed, I think I think I would have given up the ghost.”

David admitted when he first heard the news of his cancer, it struck him and his wife Doreen like “a bolt out of the blue”.

But his family was also hit hard by the news. His granddaughter, who was in her early teenage years, initially found his illness very hard to accept, but came to terms with it after she took part in an art therapy course at the hospice.

For David, there was practical help in dealing with his cancer, which causes trouble breathing.

He said: “I used to to lie down at night at it would be like drowning, but since they showed me how to breathe, I have had no trouble.”

“They also had courses in controlling your stress, living with an incurable disease.”

Just as important the the medical advice has been the chance to meet other people in the same situation.

Waving towards the day room where the hospice’s patients were talking together, David said: “Most of the people out there have incurable diseases and we have a good chat.

“I talk to people outside and they say how are you, but you can't go too deep into your problems. Here, most of us have the same sort of problems so we just relax and talk to each other.

“The staff are really interested in you as well, it is not just a check-list.

“It is like a second family here. Nothing is too much trouble. They are like guardian angels.”

He concluded: “I could not praise it enough. It has given me a new lease of life.”

And with the support of the hospice, he says he is ready to fight his cancer all the way.

He said: “When the time comes to go, I shall kick and scream, but at least I shall be happy that I had 70-odd years.

“I might break world records and live for another 20-odd years – at least we can try!”

This week is the first annual St Helena Hospice Awareness Week, to promote their work.

If you would like to support the hospice, contact their fundraising team on 01206 791 740.