Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

People Affected by Cancer: Not Alone

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“What’s that tardis-like box doing in Churchill Square?” That’s what shoppers in Brighton were asking on the last Friday in August.

The isolation box, a touring art installation by Macmillan, was raising awareness that ‘cancer can be the loneliest place’.impetus logo (50mm)

Members of the public were invited to try the isolation box and experience how it feels to be alone in a crowd. Once inside participants could listen to 2 real-life stories told by local people, John and Sarah, about their experiences of having cancer. John, 64, from Hove talked about how lonely his diagnosis made him feel. A few passers-by shared their own stories.

From the outside you could see into the box, but once inside I could see only blurry figures. Amidst the buzz of the busy shopping centre, with people all around me, I felt cut off from the crowd. For those few minutes, despite being aware of people and voices surrounding me, there was a barrier between me and the rest of the world.

The isolation box

The isolation box

People affected by cancer can feel incredibly lonely even when they have friends and family. Research has shown the devastating impact of loneliness, causing people to skip meals, attend vital appointments alone or even refuse treatment. Over 60% of patients go for surgery and radiotherapy appointments alone. Many said this was because they didn’t want to burden friends or family, or the person they wanted to go with them was not available. Some people had nobody to ask.

So what support is there for isolated cancer patients in Brighton? The Macmillan Impetus Cancer Advocacy Service works with some of the most isolated people affected by cancer in Brighton & Hove: older people, people with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities and people with autism spectrum conditions.

They may have limited support networks, or find it less easy to access the information or support they need.

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For someone affected by cancer there can be lots of information to take in and decisions to make. Navigating the complexity of health and social care systems can be frustrating and difficult.

Cancer is a life-changing experience. It can generate anxiety and stress and people may lose confidence. This may limit their ability to deal with life in the same way as they did before becoming ill.

Sam Bond

Sam Bond

Having someone to help can make all the difference. Advocates act for the person they are supporting. They can visit the person at home or another setting. Advocates have time to listen and find out what is important to the individual. They can help people sort out many of the issues that arise when someone is affected by cancer, as well as general-life difficulties which the person may find it harder to deal with. Advocates can find out about support and activities in the person’s own community.

Cancer Advocacy support aims to reduce isolation, link people up with the support they need, and ensure they are able to make informed choices and express their wishes.  This benefits the individual and everyone involved in their care.

Reach out to someone affected by cancer who may be isolated and lonely. If you know someone who would like the support of one of our cancer advocates, contact The Macmillan Impetus Cancer Advocacy Service on:

01273 737888 or email canceradvocacy@bh-impetus.org

Sam Bond, Brighton & Hove Impetus

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Author: Marie McWilliams

OPAAL's National Development Officer

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