We’ve announced a number of immediate changes to our support services in response to the coronavirus pandemic. We’re working hard to introduce new services so we can continue to be there for as many people as we can who need support.
With immediate effect:
Our four support centres in Chandler’s Ford, Bournemouth, Hythe (Waterside) and Newport, Isle of Wight, will close for drop ins on Friday 20 March
All support groups have been paused, including MENTalk and the Sing for Life choirs
Patient transport on our Daisy Buses for people arriving from the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands for hospital treatment at Southampton General Hospital and Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, will keep running with increased precautions
We’ve set up a Facebook group for anyone who needs support. You can request to join here. We’re also in the process of introducing online and telephone support for anyone living with cancer. This will include videos and helpful advice, online streaming of classes and meditation and telephone counselling. We’ll release more information as soon as these services become available.
We’ve also halved the price of our ‘This Is Me’ journal which has been designed to help you find a way through cancer that works for you personally. Copies are now £7.50 and can be ordered here.
Cait Allen, our CEO, says:
If you have cancer you might be particularly worried about how coronavirus affects you. The most important thing is to follow the advice of your healthcare team. Because people with cancer may be at a higher risk of infection, we’re going to be constantly reviewing and evolving our services to protect the people who rely on us for support, whilst still being there for them as much as we can. It’s understandable that if you’ve got cancer you might be feeling particularly anxious at this time and we’re going to be introducing a number of new things in the coming days and weeks to ensure as many people as possible continue to get help.
Regular updates will be on our website.
Please follow official Government and NHS sites for the latest official advice about coronavirus.
Whether you choose to tackle 5km or 500km, it’s all about getting active and moving more in May. It’s completely up to you how you decide to move it! So whether you’re a dancing queen or tai chi makes you happy, there are loads of ways to get moving and raise money for local families affected by cancer.
Raising just £100 could pay for a month’s supply of the products needed to provide the complementary therapies that we offer in our Cancer Support Centres. Raising £400 could fund a 10 session one to one support package, tailored to the individual, to help manage the emotional impact of cancer.
Sign up to make a difference to families affected by cancer in Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight!
Don Hedges, a grandfather from Hampshire, was diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) during Christmas 2008.
“I first realised something was wrong some 12 months before, I felt unwell and noticed I was putting on weight and feeling breathless. My GP suggested it was irritable bowel syndrome but feeling frustrated with the diagnosis I sought a second opinion. A second GP sent me for an ultrasound at my local hospital, which revealed a large mass in my abdomen.
Upon referral, to Southampton, it was confirmed as a gastrointestinal stromal tumour(also known as a sarcoma) and revealed that it would be difficult to remove through surgery alone. The site of my GIST meant that an operation to remove the tumour would result in the loss of my stomach, left kidney, spleen, pancreas and a large part of my transverse colon.
The surgeon explained that if the tumour could be shrunk using a drug therapy then he may be able to remove the tumour whilst preserving more of my organs.
The oncologist agreed that treating the tumour with imatinib (a type of cancer medication) would be the best option. I started on imatinib on 10 February 2009.
On 31 July 2009, I underwent eight hours of surgery to remove the GIST – my treatment with imatinib had reduced the tumour by 50%. Although the surgery had to remove part of my stomach, a part of my pancreas and all of my spleen, it had removed the tumour with good clearance.
Having spent 4 years on imatinib as an adjuvant treatment and now 10 years on, my oncology team have now given me the tick in the ‘cancer-free’ box. At the moment I’m feeling good, I’ve now retired and spend time with my family and in particular my grandsons. I’m able to manage the long term effects of the cancer and its treatment effects, but more importantly, I am determined to keep active and maintain a positive attitude.
A key player in my journey was Wessex Cancer Trust. Having been diagnosed with cancer your friends and family can find it difficult to deal with and don’t really know how to interact with you. They find it difficult to talk to you about it.
Wessex Cancer Trust gave me a place where I could talk about things that bothered me and share my anger about the situation.
The befrienders at the charity listened, they didn’t judge me or tell me I should do this or that, but gave me the chance to get things off my chest or just drop in for a cuppa.
That support was, and still is, key to the maintenance of the emotional strength needed to deal with what can be a long, dark journey. That support allows people to share the journey with others without burdening their family, who are also going through a dark time thinking that they might lose you.
So while the clinicians do their bit to make you physically well, the journey is so much easier with the emotional support given by the Ferndown Business Network member Wessex Cancer Trust. Without them, I would not have sustained the positivity needed to survive the journey.”
The initiative launched at Vitality Stadium on Thursday 7th November. Men of any age, who either have cancer themselves or are supporting someone through it, can visit the club, enjoy a stadium tour and find out more. The group will meet on the first Thursday of the month between 7 and 8.30pm starting on 5th December.
MENTalk enables men to come together to share knowledge and experiences whilst supporting each other. They will also be able to learn skills to help them deal with stress and adjust to their changing situation. Additionally, it will provide a safe place to talk openly about feelings and fears. It will be led by a trained facilitator and attended by cancer specialists. Wessex Cancer Trust already runs well-attended MENTalk groups at its Support Centres in Cosham and Waterside, Hythe.
Steve Cuss, the Head of AFC Bournemouth’s Community Sports Trust, said:
We are delighted to be working in partnership with Wessex Cancer Trust. We are fully aware through community engagement and our fanbase how cancer affects so many people. The opportunity to support through the MENTalk group is one that we are looking forward to, and welcoming to Vitality Stadium.
Colette Cowan, Wessex Cancer Trust’s Head of Service Delivery, said the launch of the new MENTalk group will address a specific need in Bournemouth:
Wessex Cancer Trust is a charity set up specifically to provide emotional and practical support to anyone living with cancer in the Wessex region, but men make up just 22% of clients accessing our support services. This is despite them being 16% more likely to receive a cancer diagnosis and 40% more likely to die from the disease.
This year, in partnership with the Wessex Public Health Community Fellowship, we commissioned an assessment into why men living with cancer might not be seeking support as readily. We found that men diagnosed with cancer were mainly concerned with their own prognosis and how their family would cope. The main barriers to them seeking support were a lack of awareness of the support services available, a lack of time and the perception that they did not need help or that seeking support would be uncomfortable for them. Cancer will affect half of us in our lifetime and we’re delighted that AFC Bournemouth will be encouraging men to access support as part of its healthcare education in the local community. We’re sure it will make a big difference to any man living with a cancer diagnosis.
When you are facing challenges in life, no matter how big or small, support means everything. Without a shoulder to cry on or someone to share the happy moments with, your journey can feel lonely and isolated.
Having a safe space – somewhere where people can feel supported and welcomed – can turn a situation around. Compassion is a big factor in support, by simply having somewhere to feel loved and looked after. This can be from anyone, but especially those who are caring for you.
Emma Ormrod, Wessex Cancer Trust Support Centre Manager in Bournemouth shares the importance of having a place to find strength, courage and just be yourself.
More Than Just A Service
“There’s a difference between fixing someone medically and taking care of them. You can’t give someone treatment and send them away, they still have a long way to go,” explains Emma.
As Emma sees it, once you have experienced something like cancer, you come out the other side as a different person. In order to help heal people fully, we help them find their new normal. In a holistic way, healing is much deeper than just having a clear medical record. Steering away from a clinical approach with white walls and disinfectant can provide that healing environment that people need.
“We pick people up from where their physical treatment ends. They don’t have any other aftercare. What we offer is a home from home, a community family which is big on connections.”
Knowing You’ve Made A Difference
“Actually coming to us is a big deal in itself. It is easy to put a face on and act like things are okay. You don’t need that mask here – you can offload, cry, anything you need.
“You can be you.”
It might sound small to some, but being yourself can be a big sigh of relief. Once you have let your guard down and spoken to someone who understand your situation, such as our volunteers, a weight is taken off of your shoulders.
At Wessex Cancer Trust, represented by Maria Tidy at Ferndown Business Network (FBN), a lot of the team has experienced cancer in some form in their lives. They won’t say anything clichéd or shy away from hard topics, so there’s no barrier to what you can and cannot say. You form a relationship with everyone and become personally invested in them getting better, just one reason why people turn to us. It is a form of care you can’t get elsewhere. You walk away uplifted, helping your mental wellbeing along with the physical.
“Cancer is a reality. People look at you differently, you can’t always work, and you might lose your hair. It comes with all these challenges, and we’re here to help you through them all.
“We act as a hug. We hold your hand, give you a shoulder to cry on and be your emotional rock throughout.”
Making Sure The Service Is Helping
The journey towards finding yourself again can be a long and painful one, but there will be a point in which you’ve found yourself again.
“As I’m in charge of that space, I feel like the mother of the ship,” Emma clarifies. “I just wanted to make more of what was already existing. There’s so many services, but so many gaps in care too.”
Wessex Cancer Trust prioritises care for each individual, it’s not a one size fits all policy. If we think another service is more tailored towards you, we’ll recommend them. It works the other way round too, so people recommend us.”
Not only does this help the people looking for an extra bit of support, but it helps us providers too. Less pressure is put on the NHS and other bigger charities to increase services and decrease waiting times. The more options available to patients, the better.
“When people are having to go to the hospital day in day out, it’s wearing. Some people can’t even drive past the hospital any more, as it’s too much for them. That routine is what we’re breaking. Having a separate supportive space is key.”
The moment you come through our door, everything is on your terms. You can say as much or as little about your experience to our staff, knowing that Wessex Cancer Trust is here for you regardless.
Emma gets to know everyone in the Centre, and they know her equally as well. Things like our coffee mornings and art groups bring people together in a way the hospitals aren’t able to, building that community. The groups become friends, and those friends see each other in their own time. It takes the pressure off of our workers, and gives the building blocks to people finding themselves again.
“We can look at people and figure out what they need, even if they don’t know what that is yet.
“It’s all about supporting yourself and others, that’s how you find your strength.”