Bob Sheppard, Co-op St Anne’s, Bristol

Bob recently finished cancer treatment and is enjoying being back out on his pitch, where he's the longest-selling vendor in Bristol

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Image: Frankie Stone

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer over a year ago and I have only just finished treatment. It came out of the blue, basically. About two years ago, I ended up round at a friend’s at new year. I was a bit ill and all that and she decided I needed to go to hospital. I went and explained some of the things that were happening, had a blood test taken and discovered it through that. 

I was very scared at first, obviously. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know anything about it really at that point. I’ve been having treatment and I finished a couple of weeks ago. The doctor gave me radiotherapy. It was quite intensive. 

I had to go to the hospital five days a week for a few weeks to get the radiotherapy done. I felt quite tired and it was quite stressful. It was difficult. I don’t know 100% yet [whether the treatment has worked]. I’ve got to go back in May. I’ve got to see the cancer specialist again. 

I’ll probably have to have another blood test. It’s quite difficult to get blood out of me because I used to be an intravenous drug user years ago. I’m well over that now, I don’t use at all nowadays. But it’s hard for people to get blood out of my veins. I’ve had really caring nurses; they’ve been really good. The treatment wasn’t too bad. I was expecting a lot worse. 

It’s been good getting back to my pitch recently. I’ve been really enjoying getting out. I’m the longest selling vendor in Bristol. I’ve been selling it since 1994. I’ve really enjoyed selling The Big Issue all that time. It does mean something to me. Just having that consistency, always coming to your pitch and the freedom of it. To be honest with you, before The Big Issue came along, I was in jail all the time and things like that. I haven’t been back since. 

I have quite a few regular customers. When I see them, they ask me how I’m doing or how treatment’s going. Only last week I was walking down to catch a bus to pick up my methadone when I saw one of my customers and they asked me how things were going. I felt quite supported.  

I’m from Bristol originally. I’ve lived here most of the time. I used to be a soldier years ago. I lived in Germany with the army. But I do enjoy living in Bristol, it’s excellent. I like Clifton. Kingsdown’s a nice place to live; Bishopston’s another good place. 

I like the whole city really. It’s got a real multicultural feel. There’s the music scene, everything’s involved. 

I’m living in over-50s accommodation at the moment. It was difficult at first. I had to get used to the curtain twitchers and that, but it has changed. It’s just about being here really and people getting to know me. I’ve got a granddaughter now, she’s two. I speak to her on the phone. I’m hoping to get up to Mansfield to see her this year. Fingers crossed.  

I’m hoping to keep selling The Big Issue for a while. That’s what I live for basically. Getting out and about, talking to people, meeting people. It’s about supporting me financially as well. Not a great deal but it makes me a lot more comfortable. It has been a little bit difficult financially, but I’ve been getting vouchers from Big Issue every now and again. It’s been very useful.  

I’m generally pleased for all the support I’ve been getting. It’s really nice to know you’re needed and respected. 

Words: Liam Geraghty

Co-op Food - St Annes - Wyatts View, Wyatts View, Brislington, St. Annes, Bristol, UK