THE long and painful battle is nearly over as his family gather by his bedside to await the inevitable.
But rather than give in to the disease, Scots Guard Paul Selwood has used what little time he has left to urge support for Marie Curie, the charity that is nursing him through his final days.
The Pipe Major was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and is now receiving treatment in the Marie Curie Hospice in Fairmilehead.
His family too have taken the opportunity to promote the vital work of the charity and will continue their fundraising long after he has gone.
His voice thin from the tumours in his throat, Paul said: “The message is ‘You don’t have to do this on your own’. There are people out there who can help you. There are organisations and charities like Marie Curie that can give you advice. You don’t have to take it but it’s there if you need it.”
The charity has also been providing vital emotional support to his heartbroken wife, Joanna and their two grown-up children – Spencer, 20, and Chloe, 22.
Recalling his first diagnosis, Paul said: “It was quite a shock. I went to the doctors with a sore throat and I had a lump just behind my ear. I just thought it was some kind of swollen gland.”
But a biopsy confirmed his worst fear and that of his family. It was a malignant carcinoma. It had to be removed and he was booked in for a gruelling course of radiotherapy.
The diagnosis came as a huge shock because Paul was physically fit and relatively young at 48 when he was given the shattering news.
His wife Joanna, who works in facilities management at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: “You always think that cancer is something that happens to somebody else. Paul was a young, exceptionally fit man who never even smoked one cigarette and was never a big drinker. You don’t think it can happen to you but it can happen to anybody.
“And cancer is far-reaching. It not only affects the individual, it affects the family and the friends. It is devastating.”
Paul was determined to fight the disease, taking part in sporting events to raise money for cancer charities.
He even performed a piping solo during the final stretch of the Edinburgh Marathon in 2014 – after his cancer had returned.
He also carried out his duties with the Pipers’ Trail in last year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
At the start he said he had felt fine, but by the end his whole body was wracked with pain and he could hardly walk off the parade ground.
And because he was too unwell to perform in this year’s Tattoo, the pipers played in the garden of the hospice in his honour.
In 2013, he discovered the cancer had come back. Returning from a short holiday with his family, he felt an acute pain in his back which made it difficult to drive.
But since then he has benefited not only from the hospice but also from inpatient services, including visits from a community nurse and specialist teams from Marie Curie.
Joanna said: “It’s not until you start needing help that you realise what Marie Curie actually do. It’s not about coming here to die. It’s about much more than that. They give you your life back.
“This is the fourth time Paul has been here to recuperate and they get the team around you and they inspire you to carry on.”
Paul’s son Spencer previously felt powerless to help and struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis. But through the charity he is now set to embark on trek in Cambodia in a month’s time to raise around £15,000 to support its services. Donate at www.justgiving.com/spencer-selwood.
Meanwhile, Joanna is planning to organise her own Dinner Down Memory Lane with friends and neighbours.
Paul, who is originally from Oxford, had wanted to be a soldier ever since he was four years old when his dad built a sentry box in the garden. He joined up when aged 16 and went on to become the first English Pipe Major and also the first English Senior Pipe Major in the British army.
His career has seen him heavily involved with state events including the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday celebrations and also her funeral parade.
Marie Curie provides care and support to people living with a terminal illness, across the Lothians in the Marie Curie Hospice at Fairmilehead and through its community services. In Lothian, Marie Curie nurses work night and day, in people’s homes providing hands-on care and vital emotional support.
Last year the charity visited 418 people living with a terminal illness in the Lothians at home or in a home setting through its community nursing team, which is equal to 4152 visits and more than 16,500 community nursing hours across the region.
It also cared for 480 people as an inpatient in the Marie Curie Hospice and carried out more than 2200 clinical nurse specialist visits to patients in Edinburgh and more than 1000 in West Lothian.
Because of its vital work, 95 per cent of Marie Curie patients were able to die in their place of choice.
Dinner Down Memory Lane
MARIE Curie is calling on food fans to hold a retro-inspired dinner party in aid of the charity this November.
Retro food is having a revival and Marie Curie’s new fundraising campaign, Dinner Down Memory Lane, is about holding a dinner party and recreating your favourite nostalgic food.
By inviting friends to make a donation in return for a dinner with a difference, fundraisers will be helping Marie Curie nurses to provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness and their families.
Everyone from celebrity chefs to fun-loving foodies are revisiting and reinventing some of the classic cuisine of the last few decades.
You can recreate time-honoured classics such as duck a l’orange and prawn cocktail or surprise your guests by putting a contemporary twist on some old favourites.
Actress Alison Steadman is supporting Dinner Down Memory Lane and is no stranger to retro food, having starred in the cult 70s play Abigail’s Party.
She said: “Retro food seems to be everywhere at the moment and getting together for a dinner party is always good fun. So combine the two, and host your own retro-inspired dinner party for Marie Curie.
“Dinner Down Memory Lane is the charity’s new fundraising campaign and is the perfect excuse to be part of the retro revival while raising money to help Marie Curie care for people living with a terminal illness.
“Revisit classic recipes or surprise your guests by putting a contemporary twist on some old favourites. There’s nothing like a bit of nostalgia to make you feel good.”
TO sign up and get your free fundraising pack visit mariecurie.org.uk/retronight or call 0800 716 146.
Marie Curie is the UK’s leading charity for people with any terminal illness.
The charity helps people living with a terminal illness and their families make the most of the time they have together by delivering expert hands-on care, emotional support, research and guidance.