THE living room in Harold John Hancy’s flat is cluttered with clues about his life.
Photos, letters and books are strewn across a table.
There’s piles of documents — some with hospital logos and some from council.
The 87-year-old is still quick on his feet and opens the door to his unit before you have a chance to knock.
The former salesman and union leader has had to deal with prostate cancer for more than a decade now and two years ago suffered a stroke that left his speech garbled.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he says clearly.
Now he wants people to know life doesn’t end with tragedy and has rebuilt his own life to show it.
“It’s a message I wanted to try and get out,” he said.
“I don’t feel sorry for myself ... we don’t need people to feel sorry for us ... we just need to be understood.”
Speaking to The Standard, the pensioner offered an honest and emotional account of his life with the sole aim of telling others they can come back from hardship.
His struggle and recovery was also compounded when his wife Betty passed away two years ago, leaving him mentally and physically shattered.
“The one thing about a stroke is that it leaves you emotional. Many tears were shed over the next four months,” Mr Hancy explained.
“I was missing Betty very much. I was trying to keep myself as busy as possible. But no matter how hard you try you still find plenty of lonely times.”
Mr Hancy speaks relatively fast despite having dysphasia — a brain injury that can follow strokes affecting language and speech.
Hours have been spent in grief counselling, rehabilitation and speech therapy.
He hasn’t done it alone. Around 20 different people from Meals on Wheels to carers help him get through the week.
Neither has Mr Hancy embraced old age.
“I’m playing clarinet now and I have a teacher who comes here Thursday evenings. She’s taken me under her wing,” he said. “I said when I got out of hospital that I’m going to start playing the harmonica. I’ve been playing it for six months now.”
A good example of his recovery is a stoush over his council rates.
Not long after leaving hospital he was slapped with a confusing notice to pay his rates.
“But I’d already paid them,” he said.
It took some time but he soon realised he was fighting over last year’s rate notice.
Only pride was hurt and he laughs off the incident — it proved his memory had come back. He’s seen others go through dementia but sees his story as a recovery from the stroke.
“That’s why I say I’m one of the lucky ones.”