Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Hello my name is…Kate

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Six months ago I heard about Dr Kate Granger. In August 2011 Kate then aged 29 was diagnosed with a very rare cancer, Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumour (DSRCT), a terminal diagnosis.

Kate is a hospital doctor who treats and cares for older people. Kate came into my life when I was feeling particularly uninspired at work, concerned as to the future funding of our cancer support work and to cap it all health worries had resurfaced with two of our four elderly parents. I ordered and read her two books, The Other Side which is the story of Kate’s gargantuan struggle coming to terms with being a patient, and the follow up The Bright Side which explores her return to work after a prolonged absence. Both these books had an immediate impact on me, apart from making me humble and grateful that I was not so diagnosed and having to cope with such a distressing prognosis, they served to give me the proverbial ‘kick up the backside’, giving me a fresh impetus to tackle our work with renewed vigour and energy.  Soon afterwards my elderly parent’s health turned a corner and we heard we’d been awarded the £1,000,000 from the Big Lottery Flagship team to continue and further expand our work supporting older people affected by cancer.

This award, along with our own recent publication Every Step of the Way which tells the stories of 13 older people’s experience of the difference advocacy support made at various stages along their cancer pathway, served to raise our profile somewhat and I was invited to speak about our work at the national annual NHS Confederation conference on 4th June. Kate had also been invited to this conference as a speaker, a very important speaker as she had been invited to close the conference on 6th June.

I was unable to be present on the 6th as I had a prior commitment elsewhere, however I was able to catch up recently, and once more found myself profoundly moved by this young woman’s story and her commitment to improving the lot of patients with her latest ‘my name is campaign’. A simple message yet one with the power to transform the relationship between doctor and patient. Kate has always been a strong believer in getting to know people’s names as part of building good working relationships with both patients and other colleagues. It is the first rung on the ladder to providing compassionate care and often getting the simple things right, means the more complex things will follow more easily and naturally.

Kate’s campaign has gathered momentum and will impact on many future relationships between doctor and patient, however until all patients can feel comfortable talking to the medical staff who care for them we will continue to need armies of advocates to step in and simply ‘be the voice’ of older people to help ensure they get heard by those in such powerful positions determining their treatment and care.

If you have a few moments do please watch the video below.

If you, like me have been inspired by Kate and wish to learn more of our work and how you too could become a trained advocate for older people in your area then do please get in touch simply email me kath.parson@gmail.com and I’ll point you in the right direction.

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Author: kathparson

Chief Executive of Older People's Advocacy Alliance (UK)

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