“I’ve been through the mill. Everything’s been taken from me. As long as I’ve not got the pain, I can cope but I go to bed and I think ‘what’s the point?’ Living this life on my own. Sometimes I burst into tears.”
Simon Preece grew up on the Shropshire farm that has been in his family for 900 years. One of four boys, he watched his Dad run the farm which became his playground. As he got older, he started to become more involved in everyday work and it soon became his job. He loved it too, being part of a 10th generation looking after the 500-acre arable operation that was rooted into the local community and its history.
When he was 29, Simon was feeding the sheep on a day much like any other when he collapsed. He hadn’t been feeling well and had seen a doctor, who told him it was ‘probably stress’. The doctors subsequently discovered he had ‘stomach problems’ and he found himself in and out of hospital.
From that moment, Simon’s health took a downward spiral and life has never been the same since. Now 56, he hasn’t worked since the day he first collapsed. In 2012, Simon had part of his bowel removed at Birmingham Hospital after a tumour was discovered. The operation caused more problems than it solved and left him struggling to walk.
Today, he has a colostomy bag and 17 hernias that cannot be treated. He has undergone five operations – four on his stomach and one to remove his prostate. He has bladder problems, diverticulitis, diabetes and his immune system is weak.
Simon said: “I live in chronic pain, 24/7 and I’ve not had a decent night’s sleep since the op in 2012. The pain is unbelievable.
“When I get off the phone from talking to you the first thing I’m going to do is take some morphine. I ask myself ‘why me?’ I’ll help anybody.”
Simon has lots of friends who visit him but admits he gets lonely. He enjoys watching old black and white movies, featuring the likes of James Stewart and Jack Hawkins, and he likes to draw, usually old cars, tractors and farm machinery. He’s close to his brother Andrew who now runs the family farm. One of his brothers died and the other lives in Spain.
Simon said: “I like to go to the farm but that can be upsetting when I see Andrew working flat out and I can’t help him. I’d love to be doing what he’s doing, what I used to do. I miss the farm.
“I was only a farmworker but stick me on a tractor in the fresh air, with the wildlife, I’d be as happy as anything. Now, all I see are four walls and a celing. I get angry that I can’t do what I used to do and it’s getting worse.
“The scar tissue on my lungs is affecting my breathing and I can hardly walk up hills. I’m full of scar tissue from the ops.
“I try and tell myself there’s someone worse off than me. Mind you, some days, it’s hard to think about anyone else.”
Simon first contacted R.A.B.I in 2007 after being given the charity’s phone number by a friend. He was on benefits and struggling to manage, relying on handouts from family and friends. He was visited by welfare officer Mel Jones.
Simon explained: “I was skint, I didn’t have a penny. And I was freezing. Mel got me 20 bags of coal. I didn’t have enough money to buy a box of matches.”
R.A.B.I has continued to support Simon since then. “Without R.A.B.I I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” he said.
“What you’ve done for me is out of this world. I know you’re always there for me. I’ve just got to pick up the phone. I wouldn’t be here without you, I promise you.”