You will have heard that we’ve taken the next steps in shaping the future of cancer support by appointing our Wellbeing Coordinator, Phil Warner.
Phil joined us after we commissioned a large piece of research into what you need most from us as you find a way through a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. The findings highlighted that everyone has different needs, concerns and feelings, which therefore requires an individual approach to cancer care.
Everyone who thinks they would benefit from some support now has an opportunity to talk to Phil about specific concerns and needs. Together, you can create a personalised support plan, enabling you to access a combination of services that suits you best – from chatting with a befriender to joining a support group.
Many of you have told us though that picking up the phone to get in touch is the hardest step, so here we invite you to find out what you can expect from us and how we empower you to find a way through cancer that works best for you.
“Many people are signposted to us from hospitals or GP surgeries and others find information about us elsewhere. Wessex Cancer Trust welcomes people with any type of cancer, at any stage, or your loved ones. If you’ve just been diagnosed you may be feeling scared and confused about the months to come. If you’re at the end of treatment and have had ongoing medical care for a long time you might be feeling isolated, wondering if you’re ‘supposed’ to be feeling better, or you may be fearful of cancer returning. Covid-19 has brought ongoing uncertainty. We’re seeing those who have had a late diagnosis or treatment delayed, many of whom tell us that as well as feeling anxious about their cancer care, they’re facing another worrying and confusing time as we enter the final major step of England’s roadmap out of lockdown.”
Anyone – of any age, both men and women and loved ones supporting someone with cancer are all welcome. We know that cancer isn’t 9-5 and we work hard to make your support as accessible as possible, for example with evening appointments or men-only groups. As a local charity, we have the freedom and flexibility to evolve and personalise your services, meaning you’ll never feel like just a number. You’ll find that all of our Cancer Support Centres are safe havens – a bit like a cosy and welcoming lounge you’d find at home, and about as far from a clinical environment as you can get.
Just as cancer affects our physical health, it can affect how we think, feel and do things. But often we don’t seek support for our mental health in the same way, and we know it can be hard to pick up the phone or take your first step into one of our Support Centres.
“Being diagnosed with cancer can be a huge shock,” says Phil. “You may have all sorts of fears and emotions, and not knowing what the future may hold can be incredibly unsettling. The most important thing to remember is this is natural and there’s no right or wrong way to feel. It can be hard, though, to accept you have cancer and for some there’s still a stigma around accessing support. Perhaps you feel you ‘should’ be able to cope, pride or denial gets in the way or you think others may judge you. We also know that some people wait; hoping things will get better, or they feel others deserve support more. We find this particularly with men, but talking to another man can be helpful, and these feelings usually subside once we start chatting.”
Phil can see you during the day or early evening and your chat may last up to an hour. It can be over the phone or face-to-face. You’ll meet in private and everything you tell him is confidential. It’s led by you and is your opportunity to talk, cry or share anything you want. It can be as formal or informal as you want. You can bring a loved one, too. You make all the decisions about the support you’d find helpful; we just listen and give you information about the services we provide and guide you through the process. We’ll then follow this up with a letter which shows your personalised support plan and details of your local Support Centre so you have a visible reminder of the months ahead. You might also find this useful to share with your medical team or loved ones.
With us, you can access a package of support completely free of charge, which may last three to four months. At this point, you’ll follow up with Phil about how you’re feeling. Support will still be available to you after this time, should you feel you need it. At this point, we simply ask for a donation to subsidise any ongoing sessions.
Phil says it’s a privilege to see the difference Wessex Cancer Trust’s support makes to the lives of local people living with cancer:
“Because we’ve developed a tailored support plan together, you’ll have a good idea of how you’d like to feel at the end of it. For example, cancer may have changed how you look and this can be hard to accept. I’ve had many people tell me our support has empowered them to love themselves again and get their confidence back, which is wonderful.”
Many are so delighted with their support that they go on to give back to help others who might be going through cancer; either through a donation, fundraising or volunteering.
If you think you would appreciate some support, please don’t wait, hoping things will get better. It’s what we’re here for.
We pledge to be welcoming, friendly and supportive – whether you’re chatting with a trained befriender, using our Daisy Bus to get to your hospital appointment or having a hands-on therapy.
Your journey to living well with cancer is just a phone call away. Please get in touch today.