I’ve had cancer twice and I take more than 20 tablets every day to keep me alive. My second cancer was rare and the chance of survival was low. 

I’m feeling so much better now, thanks to the hospital doctors who treated me and thanks also to Lee, my telephone friend from Independent Age. 

It wasn’t only the doctors who saved me, Lee saved me too. She made me feel that life wasn’t so bad. I’m forever grateful to Independent Age for sending me Lee. She’d tell me how much she enjoyed our talks. She’d say to me, ‘A lot of people would’ve reacted badly to everything you’ve been through, but you’re such a strong, good person.’

A challenging life

If that’s true it’s because I’ve had a challenging life. I was born in a big hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1935 and was left there by my mother. I’m very lucky because the lady who looked after me after this was a gentle person. Life was harder after she died when I was 16 and I was left largely to fend for myself.

Jitsiri as a young lady

Jitsiri as a younger lady

I came to London in 1965. Here I married and worked at an insurance company. I brought up our two boys who are now 48 and 45. One’s a GP in London and one works for Leeds University. My husband was always a difficult man. When he developed Parkinson’s Disease he lost the company he ran and we lost the house we lived in. I became his carer. He needed help with everything from having a bath to getting dressed. I was helping him and going out to work. Life was tough and lonely. 

Independent Age has helped me for many years. The advice team told me about Attendance Allowance when I was caring for my husband and this helped me enormously. 

The joy of painting

When I had an operation for breast cancer in 1999, my husband had to go into a nursing home. I was struggling to deal with my ill health and began to teach myself painting. I started with watercolours because it was cheaper, though oil and acrylics are easier because you can cover up your mistakes. I’ve also used pastels, pencils and charcoal – anything. 

I started painting to reduce my blood pressure but I found that I managed to sell some of my work. I taught art to some of the elderly people in the nursing home. If they didn’t want to keep the cards they made, the home would sell them to raise funds.

Lee is no longer my volunteer because she’s having a baby. I miss her dreadfully, of course, but I have another lovely volunteer now who will, I hope, become another lovely friend. 

Knowing there are such wonderful people in the world is what gives me hope.


Jitsiri's paintings