A dedicated local charity worker, Peter Branker has three times battled cancer and now devotes a lot of his time to discussing the disease with those newly facing the cancer ‘journey’.
What time remains he apportions to the 17 or so charity and community groups with whom he works, dedication which recently earned him the British Empire Medal and now the Leader’s Person to be Proud of title..
He works as a leader at Dromore Youth Club, helps out with groups including Macmillan Cancer Care, Dromore charity,‘Via Wings’ and ‘Dromore in Action’ and takes a leading role in Ballymacormick Rural Development Association, Cancer Research ‘Relay for Life’ and the Alzheimer’s Society.
Peter (41), who has been battling cancer since he was a teenager - losing an eye and a leg during life-saving surgery - also recently embarked on a University of Ulster counselling course at the Southern Regional College in Banbridge and a Macmillan Cancer Care course covering skills in communication, counselling, loss and bereavement, while requesting time to talk to amputee patients at Musgrave Park Hospital.
He recently told The Leader, “I have spoken to patients before and have been told they found what I had to say helpful, so I am happy to speak from my own personal experience again. I think it always helps to hear first-hand accounts from someone who has been there and gone through the same range of fears and emotions.”
“... I have always been a positive person and really, that is the only way you get through things. I was brought up with a ‘can do’ attitude and my mother in particular was always a real ‘goer’ who just got on with things. My leg was amputated in 1989 and I have never shed a tear since.”
Peter’s first brush with cancer came when he was 13 and had a lump around his eye tissue removed. It turned out to be a rare form of soft tissue cancer which required blasts of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and eventually cost him his sight in that eye.
Some years later he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer which resulted in his amputation and most recently he was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer on his face.
A qualified accountant, Peter was mugged in Belfast a number of years ago and suddenly decided to give up his day job to do something more gratifying.
”I had been working as an accountant with a Belfast firm for 20 years and when I was mugged I suddenly realised I wasn’t happy in the job,” he said. “I suffered head injuries but somehow it made me see things more clearly. It made me rethink everything and see what was really important in life, so I took a change of direction and haven’t looked back.”