WITH his fervour for life and sunny outlook, it might be a shock to learn that John Byneo has been given less than a year to live.

The father-of-two said he was "devastated" three years ago when he was diagnosed with a potent form of prostate cancer, followed by stage four terminal lymphoma.

But the 56-year-old poet, who lives off St Clement's Street in Oxford, said he was like a "phoenix rising from the ashes" after the discovery of Sobell House a few months later.

He said: "I went into a very dark place - the diagnoses just blew my head off. But I found myself at Sobell.

"I couldn't live without them, it's another world there - it's heaven.

"The people are awesome; they show humanity, love, care and trust and you can just put your life in their hands for the day.

"Without them I would have spiralled out of control. It's a wicked support network and such an escape."

On one of his first visits to the day centre, the Headington hospice's music therapist discovered the wordsmith writing a poem, and invited him into the music room.

Mr Byneo, who spends every Thursday at the hospice, said: "The first session was phenomenal, it was totally life-changing. It was everything and more. It inspired me to write more, to perform more, and to live more. I had lost the energy for living with my diagnoses."

He unearthed a hidden love for making music, and has since embraced the passion and has adopted a stage name of Ras Brother John.

His musical alter-ego has written more than 24 spoken word songs and entertained audiences during more than 70 performances, including at weekly open mic nights at James Street Tavern and The Half Moon pubs in Oxford.

Mr Byneo is now preparing for his first headliner gig on Wednesday evening at The Wheatsheaf, where he hopes to raise money for Sobell House.

He said: "It's just been an amazing journey. I'm playing with some really top class bands, I love it. I wish it could have happened 30 years ago, I wish I'd found my niche then. I can't get enough of it.

"There's not really a genre, I've been told it's unique. It's like an autobiography - some confront my illness but they're just about life in general."

Incredibly Mr Byneo, who has a daughter aged 32 and a son aged eight, still manages to find energy for 50-80 press-ups every day – despite being on trial drugs and struggling with mobility due to a foot disability and osteoarthritis.

He said: "I've accepted death. You have to – it's inevitable, but knowing it's coming is even worse.

"But I'm staying positive – I'm smiling all the way."