I’ve been involved in one capacity or another with the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme from its inception. I’ve always thought I understood the value of advocacy and having worked with older people for more years than I care to remember I believe I have some understanding of the issues facing older people.
However, I never really had an understanding of the impact of cancer. That is, until Christmas Eve. That’s when my 23 year old non-smoking, teetotal son was diagnosed with advanced mediastinal germ cell cancer. He had been suffering from a bad cough for a number of weeks and his GP had given him antibiotics to clear up what he thought was a chest infection. When that didn’t work he did some blood tests which showed hyper-thyroidism which we later found out was a symptom of the cancer. A trip to hospital on Christmas Eve was intended to help provide intravenous medication to help the thyroid problem because my son kept being sick and was struggling to keep anything down.
One chest x-ray later, followed quickly by ultrasound and CT scans quickly indicated to us that there was more wrong than anyone was currently telling us. When we were taken to a side room to talk to the consultant, who up to this point we’d never met, we had that feeling of all definitely not being well. And then it struck – the fear!
That’s kind of the hardest thing to live with – the constant, nagging, all consuming fear. So, ever since that meeting in the side room with the consultant we’ve been on the roller coaster. The one familiar to all who are affected by cancer. One minute going up, the next down with a lurching in the stomach and the desire to scream.
Whilst we’re dealing on a day to day basis with what comes after that diagnosis I’m at all times very conscious that we have each other. So in spite of that diagnosis, we’re lucky. We’ve got a tight knit family. We support each other, help out by being at clinical meetings and appointments, take notes, ask questions, plan what we’ll ask next, help with the form filling, everything that we can do, we do. But what about those who have no-one to provide this type of support?
That’s where peer advocacy support comes in and can make a massive difference. The fact that our peer advocates have been there, got the t-shirt, read the book and seen the film really does help. They understand and that’s very important. So, if you’re currently on the cancer roller coaster we’re on it beside you. If you need support please do ask for it. If you’re able to provide that support don’t be shy. Your support could make a world of difference.
Marie McWilliams, Nastional Development Officer, OPAAL