Over the last few years I have suffered a whole succession of severe illnesses. Firstly after a long period of feeling extremely unwell I was finally diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given six months to live, this however eventually turned out to be severe pancreatitis which paralysed me from the waist down. After months in hospital and a nursing home I managed to be able to walk again and I moved into sheltered housing (Viscount Cobham Court) but soon I had to be re-admitted to hospital with severe jaundice and anaemia.

After just a few months of recovery a dull painful ache across my shoulders, which I had suffered for a long time and had been diagnosed as muscle strain began to get progressively worse and I became aware of a increasing paralysis in both my arms and legs. After a month in Worcester Royal Hospital and numerous tests I became virtually quadriplegic and was transferred to the specialist spinal unit at Cheltenham Hospital where they found that one of the vertebrae in my neck (C3) had broken up and was trapping my spinal cord. They carried out a new medical procedure to replace the broken vertebrae with a carbon/titanium mesh that new bone can grow into. The spinal team were amazed and delighted at how successful it was. After another year of constant and intensive physiotherapy I was able to walk and eventually to write and paint again. Painting and writing have always been an essential part of my life and it was wonderful to be able to get back to my easel.

With the current, rapid medical advances people are living much longer which does, ironically mean more time often with more disabilities but I think art is an ideal way of dealing with this. Painting constantly improves my manual dexterity and I find being involved in creating a painting is a perfect way to get rid of depression and self pity also for many people loneliness is a problem but art can help with this too via classes etc. Just recently however I have suffered both a minor stroke and pneumonia so the battle continues!

The award is to be presented at The House of Lords but because of my recent illnesses unfortunately I will not be able to go to the presentation but I hope that getting it might help other people with disabilities to cope with theirs. Incidentally E.A.C. stands for ‘Elderly Accommodation Council’ but at sixty four I don’t consider myself to be ‘elderly’ and besides inside every elderly person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened!

Ian Fearnside