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History of Bristol Cancer Help Centre

The Bristol Cancer Help Centre is the UK's leading national holistic cancer care charity. It was co-founded in 1980 by Penny Brohn, a woman living with cancer and her great friend Pat Pilkington, and offers support to people living with cancer and those close to them.

The late Penny Brohn was in her early thirties, and married with three small children when her cancer was diagnosed. Penny travelled the world in search of the care she wanted - an immunotherapy clinic in Germany helped to treat the tumour, but she realised that this was not enough. Her great friend Pat Pilkington flew out from Bristol to join her at the clinic, and remembers Penny telling her that she - and others in her situation - needed not only medical treatment but also "care for the mind, the spirit, the emotions, the heart and the soul."

The two women decided to develop the support system Penny herself had needed so desperately, and to do it all under one roof, and so the Bristol Cancer Help Centre was born. The Centre started in the home of Pat and her husband Canon Pilkington, and following growing interest, including a BBC TV documentary series: "The Gentle Way With Cancer", expanded and moved in 1983 to its current premises opened by HRH The Prince of Wales, who also became the charity's active Patron in 1997.

Penny died in 1999 after living with cancer for twenty years, her legacy has provided invaluable support and care to many thousands of others. Pat Pilkington was awarded an MBE in recognition of her work in 2003.

Since the Centre opened it has been extremely influential in changing the face of cancer care in the UK.

We are now 25 years old! Read about our birthday celebrations

"My dear friend, Penny Brohn, was a wonderfully intuitive therapist, and when in 1979 her life was overwhelmed by a cancer diagnosis, she observed that the devastation she was experiencing came from her heart and her mind, her emotions and her spirit. I remember her saying: 'the hospital can treat the lump in my breast, but where can I get help for the rest of me?'  It was to answer that question that we set up the Bristol Cancer Help Centre."

Pat Pilkington MBE