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Charities unite for new cancer support service

Posted onPosted on 1st Mar

Macmillan Cancer Support and Self Help UK have joined forces to launch an innovative new service to support people affected by cancer in Mansfield with all their practical and emotional needs.

The Macmillan Beyond Diagnosis Gateway, which has benefited from £550,000 of Macmillan funding, aims to help patients, carers and people recovering from cancer overcome the everyday challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and take back some normality.

From preparing for hospital appointments to occasional shopping, collecting medication and household jobs, the service aims to ease some of the anxiety people affected by cancer are experiencing as a result of the pandemic, which has led to delays in treatment, late diagnosis and more than a quarter of a million people shielding.

Delivered in partnership with Self Help UK, the support will be provided by an army of local volunteers, many of whom have been affected by cancer themselves. It will expand on an existing successful befriending scheme that has supported more than 153 people in the last two years across Nottinghamshire.

Bridget Litchfield, 63, of Mansfield, is one of the Self Help UK volunteers for the new Macmillan Beyond Diagnosis Gateway.

 She decided to become a volunteer after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

 She said: “I had lots of support from family and friends but I know a lot of people don’t have that. Particularly at the moment with the pandemic, there are a lot of people really struggling, having to attend appointments and chemotherapy treatments by themselves whilst also having to shield at home. It’s really tough.

 “A lot of the people I have supported just want someone to talk to. They find it helpful to have someone outside of the family who they can unburden to without worrying about upsetting others.”

 The service aims to match volunteers with people affected by cancer according to their interests and where they live to help them build a lasting relationship. However, more volunteers are needed in Mansfield and Ashfield to meet a growing need. 

Dennis Wyer, 81, of Kirkby, has incurable lung cancer and is receiving palliative care. He and his partner, Pearl, have shielded at home for most of the past year to protect Dennis and with no family living close by became very isolated.

 Dennis said: “Through the lockdown we’ve hardly been out anywhere as I don’t want to put myself at risk. I go and get the papers every now and again and that’s the only way I see people. It’s been tough, it has got me down. I became a great grandad but haven’t been able to see her yet.”

Dennis has been paired with a volunteer on the Macmillan Beyond Diagnosis Gateway, who calls once a week to check in and provide emotional support.

Dennis added: “We talk about football, cricket and just chat in general about how I’m getting on. It takes my mind of things for a bit and lifts my mood. It also gives my partner Pearl a break as she’s found it very hard.”

Cath Cameron-Jones, of Self Help UK, the Macmillan Beyond Diagnosis Gateway manager who runs the Nottinghamshire service, said they aimed to empower people affected by cancer and help them overcome practical and emotional challenges that a cancer diagnosis can present. 

“People are increasingly isolated and can make things like picking up groceries or going for a hospital appointment difficult if they are shielding or don’t have access to their usual support networks,” she said.

“That’s where our volunteers come in. With the extra funding from Macmillan we will be able to expand the existing befriending service to help more people in their hour of need as they face the dual pressures of cancer and Covid-19.

“Our service aims to support people through the difficult times enabling them to build confidence and retain their independence moving forward. We must ensure cancer does not become the ‘forgotten C’.”

If you need support or would like to become a Self Help UK volunteer for the Macmillan Beyond Diagnosis Gateway, visit https://www.selfhelp.org.uk/projects/macmillan-beyond-diagnosis or email referrals@selfhelp.org.uk or volunteers@selfhelp.org.uk or call 0115 9111662. The Macmillan Support Line is open daily, from 8am to 8pm. For information or someone to talk to, call 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk