Helicopter lessons help cancer patient, 85, cope with illness

AT THE age of 85, and having been diagnosed with liver cancer, you may be forgiven for thinking Bob Purvis would want to take things slowly.

But the former army reservist is determined to do nothing of the sort, and has recently started learning to fly a helicopter as a means of taking his mind off his illness.

“Cancer is all to do with your attitude,” Mr Purvis said. “If you’re not positive, then the alternative is pretty grim.”

Mr Purvis, who is from Usk, has already completed one flying lesson, and has to do 45 hours in total if he is to obtain his helicopter pilot’s licence.

So far, he said, his decision to take up flying lessons has been completely justified.

“It’s an incredible experience, going over places you couldn’t possibly see from the road,” Mr Purvis said.

“The highlight has been learning to hover, which is quite difficult.

“I’ve found the whole things appeals to me need for excitement and my desire to take risks.”

Mr Purvis described himself as a “very, very positive person” and said he liked to think his initials – BP – also stood for “be positive”.

This isn’t his first experience as a pilot – he qualified as a glider pilot while doing his National Service aged 17 – but he said the helicopter was a lot easier to enter and exit at the age of 85.

“With wonky knees and a frozen shoulder, the only way I could get out of a glider now is if I was pushed out with a parachute over the Usk Valley,” he said.

Mr Purvis is learning to fly the Robinson 22 helicopter under the tutelage of Captain Alan Ramsden, at Tiger Helicopters in Shobdon, Herefordshire.

He is being supported by Gwent-based support charity St David’s Hospice Care, as well as St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford.

Mr Purvis has set up an online fundraising page for St David’s – all money received will go directly to the charity.

Kris Broome, of St David’s Hospice Care, said: “Having recently been put in touch with Bob, we have been overwhelmed by his passion and desire to want to raise funds for St David’s Hospice Care, and will look to support him in every way possible.”

Mr Purvis has his sights set firmly on completing his flying hours and becoming a helicopter pilot, and has no plans to let his illness get in the way of that goal.

He said: “My specialist asked me how long I wanted to live. I told him I had to get my licence first.”

To donate to St David’s Hospice Care for Mr Purvis’ cause, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/helicopterchallenge