Helping cancer patients get back on track

Posted on in Hospitals, Support groups

Margaret Ranson had only gone to the doctors complaining of sinus headaches so it was a huge shock when she was diagnosed with cancer.Margaret and Julie

Tests at The James Cook University Hospital revealed Margaret of Billingham had High Grade Non Hodgkin Lymphoma and a gruelling regime of chemotherapy followed.

Margaret’s treatment finished in July 2012 but it left her feeling totally fatigued and it was a while before she could start to get back to some sort of normality.

“I spent last summer in bed,” she said. “I was so weak that I could not even attend my granddaughter’s 18th birthday celebrations, but I am making up for it now!”

It was an invitation to attend Macmillan’s HOPE (Helping to Overcome Problems Effectively) programme at James Cook last October that really helped Margaret to get her life back.

“I had a fantastic support network of friends and family but the HOPE programme was the first thing I did on my own,” she said.

“If I had only seen the advert in the day unit I probably would not have gone, but the haematology nurse told me about it and encouraged me to go.

“When I first started going I was still suffering with side effects of the treatment such as hair loss and fatigue, but I could see how well the other participants had done and that lifted my spirits and gave me hope for the future. I lacked confidence and had low self-esteem but the programme inspired me to move on.

“It gives you the opportunity to be really open and honest with people because you have all been through the same thing.Hope coordinators Julie Taylor and John Buckton

“We were taught relaxation techniques and we did a lot of goal setting to help us overcome our problems. It made you realise that even little things, such as walking to the local shop, were steps in the right direction.”

Macmillan cancer information manager Julie Taylor said: “Having cancer is a life-changing event. While initial concerns may be about treatment and prognosis, there are thousands of people each year who complete treatment and need to resume something approaching a normal life.

“However, many find it difficult. They may be fearful their cancer will recur, and are concerned about how it impacts on their relationships and everyday life. After such intense interaction with health care professionals, many feel abandoned following cancer treatment.

“The HOPE programme is a seven-week self-management programme which is designed to provide extra support for patients when treatment is coming to an end or has finished. Each session is very informal and completely confidential.

“It equips the patient with strategies to help them manage fatigue, emotions and stress and to encourage them to eat healthily and participate in exercise and other activities. It encourages patients to look for the positives and have hope for the future. The group share experiences, common fears and discuss issues that they find most helpful to their own situation.”

Margaret added: “It definitely boosted my confidence. It helps you to take things one step at a time and to get back on track.

“Recently I have started to think how normal life is again and it’s lovely. I still get tired but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel now.”

Further HOPE programmes are planned for June/July in Middlesbrough and Northallerton. For details call the Macmillan Information Centre on 01642 835674 (James Cook) or 01609 764033 (Friarage Hospital).