Having been a member of staff at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust for 37 years, Dr Robin Philipp found himself on the other side when he was diagnosed with myeloma.

Here he shares his experience as part of Bristol Against Cancer.

In December 2013 after having worked for 37 years in full time appointments with the central Bristol hospitals and without a day's sickness absence, overnight one weekend I developed widespread back pain and muscle spasm. It led to my acute admission to the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre and a diagnosis of myeloma. I was treated with eight months of principally outpatient-based chemotherapy followed by a successful bone marrow transplant. Then, 16 months ago, although fortunately I remained symptom-free, the cancer reappeared and needed further treatment. I'm now and to date extremely grateful that my myeloma can be successfully managed with monthly immunotherapy. 

The sudden switch from being a hospital staff member with clinical responsibilities for all my colleagues in the NHS Trust to lying in bed as an ill and dependent patient was to say the least, not easy.The adjustment took a very long time. Throughout this time what particularly stood out for me and still does now seven years later with my ongoing treatment, is the calm, reassuring, and always professional and incredibly understanding support I received from every member of the staff, irrespective of their role and whether or not I had previously known them as a colleague or patient.

The NHS staff were 'just there' in such a wonderful way and it wasn't just for me. It was something I saw in how they went about all they were and are doing for everyone. 

This experience has made me appreciate even more deeply how fortunate we are in the UK to have the NHS and its dedicated staff. Here in Bristol we have such ready access to some truly wonderful hospitals with all their amazing, modern facilities and the associated incredible range of investigative, diagnostic and treatment possibilities. Much of this would quite simply, not be available without all the support for our hospitals that so many people give freely and often voluntarily and from all that's done by Above & Beyond, the Bristol city centre hospital's charity. All of us as patients, potential NHS users and / or as staff, owe them a lot. 

Nowadays, looking back on my experiences as both a hospital patient and NHS staff member, I find every day that there's much in them that's positive to reflect on, that I've learned a great deal from, and for which I remain very grateful.

I joined the UHBW Trust in 1997 and worked full-time until, on retiring in 2016, being given an honorary appointment.

I have always felt very deeply my love of the NHS and its values. What the NHS offers, its standards, and what it does to help and support people with their healthcare needs are I sincerely believe a unique combination and very precious.

All the NHS stands for deserves our ongoing support. My own principal role was to clinically help and support people at work with their health-related needs. Many of them were like me also health service employees.

What I loved most though about working in the NHS was the compassion I so often witnessed and that NHS staff show and share with their patients. The saying: In life we get back what we give out, is to my mind so true. 

If anyone might like more information about this viewpoint it is expanded in: Compassion Is A Core Value Worth Holding On To.

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