Terminally ill Letchworth man with cancer who “loves life” continues to fight

Ray Cole in his garden in Letchworth

Ray Cole in his garden in Letchworth - Credit: Archant

A former soldier who is terminally ill with cancer says he will continue to fight as he “loves life”.

Ray Cole, who lives in Letchworth, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2012. After being discharged from chemotherapy suite at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital last month, the 78-year-old told the Comet he is “waiting for God and nature to take its course” but is trying to enjoy the time he has left.

Speaking at his home in Southern Way, Mr Cole said: “The garden has been a godsend and a life-saver. I used to love tending to my vegetable patch, but with my flower garden it is all about having patience, love and care.

“It is real occupational therapy and so important to get out of the house. I love planting my flowers as there is so much beauty out there. There are so many different colours and shades of green on the leaves.

“Letchworth is a lovely town to live in. When you walk through Howard Gardens and look towards the fountains, it is beautiful. Kennedy Gardens are very picturesque as well.”

Mr Cole served in Malaysia, Cyprus and Egypt, and as the Commanding Officer of the Biggleswade Royal Artillery Cadets for 12 years, so says he is used to hardship.

He said: “I have always been very tough. I’m a survivor and my attitude has always been to fight. My determination has given me another two years here. I don’t want to die because I love life.

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“But the look on my family’s face when I told them...they took it very hard. It’s one of those things that you never think will happen to you and it is a shock to be told that you are terminally ill.

“I am in a spiritual world now of not knowing when will be my last day. I could die tomorrow if my bowel complexity blocks up.”

Since moving to Letchworth 31 years ago, the pensioner has raised thousands of pounds for the town’s poppy appeal.

He said: “When I collected in Morrisons supermarket, I used to give the old girls a kiss and a cuddle if they donated some money. The staff used to call me the old tart!

“I have always been a charitable person. Even when I was around 14 I was shopping for old folk around the area or gardening to make a few bob for some cause or other.”

And when his time comes, Mr Cole is determined to go out with a bang. He added: “I have always lived life to the full, I have never been miserable and I’m not going out miserably. I want my funeral to be a carnival.”