The coronavirus pandemic may have forced us to close the doors of our cancer Support Centres, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be together. Creating communities has always been at the heart of what we do and people often tell us they think of us as their extended family. So until we can meet again in person, we’ve been finding other ways to keep us all connected. 

During May, we hosted a ‘CommuniTEA Celebration’, a virtual coffee morning where 60 clients, staff, volunteers and supporters came together on Zoom to celebrate our community.  It was a morning of the smiles, wisdom and poignant stories that typify Wessex Cancer Trust, with the added benefit of being able to peek into other peoples’ homes!

The event was hosted by Charlotte von Sicard, our Regional Community Manager, who welcomed everyone before playing three pre-recorded videos of our Centre Managers, Steffi, Jane and Mike. It’s thanks to their dedication and flexibility that we’ve been able to evolve our services so we can continue to support local people living with cancer online and over the telephone during the pandemic. They spoke about how they’ve been keeping clients, volunteers, counsellors and therapists connected, the role our befrienders play in the Wessex Cancer Trust family and how we link up with other organisations and larger charities to benefit our clients.

They were followed by Vic, a befriender at our Isle of Wight centre who described how the support Wessex Cancer Trust gave to his wife prompted him to give something back and use his skills to help others.

Then Leanne Chetwynd, a client at our Bournemouth Support Centre, shared her story. She talked about how being part of the Wessex Cancer Trust community has helped with her recovery. Leanne has been shielding at home because she’s asthmatic and has recently completed radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer. 

She said:

At a time when we could really do with a hug or a cup of coffee with our friends and family, many of us are stuck at home on our own because the things that have become a valuable part of our recovery from cancer have suddenly become unsafe for us to do. It’s for our own safety, of course, but it can be scary and lonely. So, while the doors to the centres are closed, this is a lovely way to come together and still feel part of a community.   Life has changed so quickly but Steffi, the manager at the Bournemouth centre, has worked so hard to put other things in place to support us. Wessex Cancer Trust is still there as the constant for me and I’m grateful for that.  

We’ve been having regular coffee and chat mornings online, I’ve been doing distance Reiki, quizzes and meditation. It’s giving me something to get up for and focus my mind on. Knowing Wessex Cancer Trust is still here for me when everything else has stopped is comforting and is giving me strength. I can’t wait until the centre opens again, but in the meantime it’s the next best thing!

You can listen to the whole of Leanne’s story below

For the final part of the event, attendees broke out into smaller groups to chat about everything from the best place to find flour to how sound therapy works, and to get to know each other a little better. 

Despite being in our own homes, there was a real sense of warmth and togetherness at the event. And it represented everything we know about the Wessex Cancer Trust community: that we’re there for each other whatever life may throw at us.