Brian and Tracey’s cancer battle bravery is an inspiration to all

Brian Coburn and his daughter Tracy Martin
Brian Coburn and his daughter Tracy Martin

Stephen Nolan has paid tribute to Banbridge man, Brian Coburn, who featured alongside his daughter Tracy Martin in the BBC documentary The Truth About Cancer.

The programme which aired last Wednesday night, followed a number of cancer patients as it explored the issues they face and the impact the illness has on their loved ones.

Tracey Martin and Liz Coburn from Banbridge presentS a cheque for �1090 to Southern Area Hospice Chaplain Graham Stockdale.  The money was collected in lieu of flowers, in memory of the late Brian Coburn who passed away in Southern Area Hospice in November 2014.

Tracey Martin and Liz Coburn from Banbridge presentS a cheque for �1090 to Southern Area Hospice Chaplain Graham Stockdale. The money was collected in lieu of flowers, in memory of the late Brian Coburn who passed away in Southern Area Hospice in November 2014.

Speaking of Brian as the documentary aired, Nolan said: “He was a gentleman. Dignified. He couldn’t get the drugs he needed.

“He passed away shortly after the interview you are watching now.”

The Coburn family were dealt a double blow when both father and daughter were diagnosed with cancer - first Brian with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow, in 2006 and then Tracy, mother-of-two, with breast cancer.

The documentary highlighted the impact of Tracy’s illness on her two young boys, while her 78-year-old father, the owner of James Coburn and Son, a landmark business in Banbridge supplying fishing and shooting goods, spoke of his frustration at not being able to get access to drugs that could prolong his life - drugs which are available to patients elsewhere in the UK.

“It’s like a death sentence,” said Brian.

“I paid my taxes, I was manager of a company that made money and paid corporation tax.

“We contributed to the UK exchequer in every sense, and now, not having the drugs available, well, they’re going to kill me unless they change their policies.”

The charity, Cancer Focus, have been calling on the public to get behind a campaign to secure equal access to drugs for patients in Northern Ireland, and Brian’s comments prompted Nolan to questioned why people here will go out to protest over issues like flags, while this life and death matter seems to go unnoticed.

Speaking after the programme Tracy said: “I am immensely proud of my family for having the strength to allow the film crew to follow them over a number of months although at times it was daunting.

“Stephen Nolan was a gent to work with and really has a soft, compassionate side.

“He’s completely different to what you see on TV.

“I just wish Dad had got to see the final film and meet the other families like mum and I had the chance to do.

“He felt very privileged to be asked to appear in the programme and I think he would have been pleased with final programme.

“We have received such positive comments since the documentary aired and I really do hope that, in Dad’s memory, we can continue to fight for equal access to drugs for cancer patients in Northern Ireland.”

Jo-Anne Dobson MLA said: “Brian was a true gentleman and Tracy an inspiration,” while the Southern Area Hospice said: “Well done to Tracy and to all those who told their stories to Stephen Nolan”.