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Picture it – you are a millionaire, married and living a life of luxury in a mansion. Then you give it all away to charity.
Many people would (unkindly) describe these actions as madness. Or maybe ‘daft as a brush’.
Brian Burnie cares not a jot. The former millionaire’s primary focus these days is not his own financial gain, but on making life a little easier for cancer patients and their families.
The construction engineer made his money on Tyneside and was living quite happily – then his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. He witnessed the high level of care she received and she thankfully overcame the disease. But he began to realise the pressure and stress placed on patients in meeting appointment times.
Eight years ago he set up ‘Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care’ to serve the Newcastle area and the charity now offers staffed custom-made vehicles to transport cancer outpatients, free of charge, to and from hospital. With 27 vehicles, the charity provides more than 40,000 cancer patient journeys each year by 300-plus dedicated volunteers.
Patients are collected from home and taken to where they will be having their treatment, with a volunteer companion if desired, before being returned home.
So successful has the charity been that 74-year-old Brian plans to expand into other parts of the UK and has his sights set on Scotland.
To raise the charity’s profile, he is walking the entire coast of Great Britain and Ireland over two years, with a converted double decker bus named ‘Bluebell’ as his home.
The vision, says Brian, is to create more than 1,000,000 cancer patient journeys.
He set off from Tyneside on March 5 and last week – 2,000 miles into his 7,000-mile trek – he arrived in Tarbert.
He and his wife parted some years back and Brian has been accompanied on his journey by South African-born Cheryl. It was on the romantic Isle of Skye that the couple decided to tie the knot, while on the west coast leg of his walk.
His walking challenge has been made more difficult by the fact he has been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for the past seven years, but Brian remains undaunted.
‘In my opinion, some Scottish scenery is up there with the most
beautiful in the world,’ he said, ‘and I have been very impressed with the Kintyre Way.’
He explained: ‘The whole point of this is that cancer patients are able to arrive for appointments less stressed, allowing treatment to be more effective.
‘Specialists tell me getting to appointments is more stressful than chemo and radiotherapy and I want to do something about that.’
He added: ‘Treatment and transport must be integrated and it isn’t at the moment across most of the country. Transport should dictate appointment times.’
Find out more about Daft as a Brush at www.bluebellbus.org.uk.
Brian and Cheryl enjoy a break from walking in Tarbert. 06_a47Daftasabrush01