I met with Alan (pictured left) in the Macmillan Cancer Support Centre at the University Hospital of North Tees. I was surrounded by walls of information available for those who seek support, from ‘Living as a Carer’ right through to the ‘Build-up Diet’ for those undergoing cancer therapies. The room was welcoming, and I was barely through the door before I was offered a cup of tea and biscuit from Louise.
Alan is the trust’s Macmillan Information and Survivorship Manager, and Louise is his assistant. They do a lot of fantastic work to support those who are living with cancer, those who are in remission, those who have loved ones who are affected and those who are caring for someone with cancer. We aren’t talking end of life care – this is support all the way through the journey, and beyond. I wanted to meet with Alan to find out a bit more about what he and Louise offer as a service.
“Our centre opened here in June 2016, and the centre in Hartlepool opened the following month. We’re open five days a week, from 09:30 – 16:30 and our door is open to everyone. We get clinical referrals into the centre, but a lot of people are just walking past and give us a knock. We are lucky because we have 14 volunteers who help us out across both sites, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.
Our volunteers help out with daily tasks on the wards such as making cups of tea, getting fresh water for patients and re-stocking information leaflets in waiting areas. This gives them a chance to interact with patients and promote the services we offer, as many people are unaware that we are even on site.
We also have sessions throughout the day on a Monday where the Citizens Advice Bureau offer advice to patients around debt / housing / employment issues. On a Wednesday, a Macmillan Financial Adviser visits the centre and holds sessions with patients to inform them of the welfare and benefits that are available.
We can also put patients in touch with energy advisors who can assist with reducing household bills. When a patient is going through treatment, they are much more likely to feel the cold and need the heating on. What we don’t want is for them to live in detrimental conditions because they simply cannot afford to do otherwise. Financial issues are the most common for those diagnosed with cancer, and we want to offer as much support as possible to resolve these issues and aid recovery.
In addition to all of this, we run many support groups for people to attend, depending on their diagnosis. We run a complimentary headwear service at both University Hospital of North Tees and University Hospital of Hartlepool on a weekly basis. Each person attending is given advice around which colours suit their complexion best and how they should tie headscarves and bandanas. At the end of the session they get to take an item of headwear home for free. We also hold quarterly ‘Look Good Feel Better’ sessions where patients are offered advice on make-up application, colour palettes and how to draw on eyebrows where they may have suffered hair loss.
Another activity that is really popular is our walking group which meets every Thursday morning at Newtown Resource Centre, Stockton at 10am. This group is for all abilities and is really just a social event where everyone can get together, get some fresh air and have a proper chat.
We also have a craft and chat group which meet on a Friday from 12.30-2.30 activities on offer include sewing, knitting and crochet, there’s always a cuppa and a biscuit ready.
Coming soon is our gossip and garden group which will be held on a Monday morning from 10.30-12.30.
Louise and I are always happy to lend an ear if you need any support, or would like a bit more information around the services we offer, give us a call on 01642383041.”