Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer


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The other “C” word

Juanita Williams of Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) project is thinking “Christmas”:

I have to admit I am a massive fan of the Christmas period. For me it’s all about friends and family and getting together having fun. Having said that I am not averse to giving and receiving presents particularly if they are given with love.

Imagine how delighted I was to hear from one our Local Cancer Champions Board members, Paul Litchfield, last week to tell me about some Christmas hampers that were being distributed by Macmillan Cancer Support from one of their partners Poundland.

The Partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and Poundland started in May 2009 originally for one year only. Following the success of Year one where the £100k target was smashed to raise £180k and following a staff vote, the partnership continued into Year two. Each year (sometime between January and March) Macmillan go through the staff vote process and have won this each time. It was then recommended that Poundland remain supporting Macmillan until they had achieved £1 million. This was reached in March 2014 and it was then decided that the partnership would continue.

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They are now into the eighth year (9th by May 2017) and are on a drive to crack £3 million by the end of 2016. Macmillan Cancer Support recently received a huge donation from the sales of carrier bags (£672k). Poundland Staff have also taken part in numerous fundraising events including London Marathon, National 3 Peaks, Land’s End to John O’Groats, Dragon Boat races and a couple are hoping to do Mount Kilimanjaro in 2017. Poundland suppliers are always keen to support (especially with Christmas hampers) and with sales promotions around World’s Biggest Coffee Morning time in September.

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Paul was contacted by Lesia at Macmillan as she had a number of Christmas hampers to donate to his patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  Paul is a valued member of our Local Cancer Champions Board and knows very well the amazing work our volunteers do with their partners here at Sandwell Advocacy on the Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy project so when he realised he would have a number of surplus hampers he asked if it would be possible for us to distribute the remaining hampers to Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy partners.

After a few phone calls, Lesia confirmed it would be appropriate for us to share the hampers and we made arrangements to go over and collect them.  We have a new volunteer David, who to date has not been matched with anyone.  He is chomping at the bit to get started and was really happy to help with the collection and delivery of hampers.

Juanita

Juanita

Imagine the delight when our volunteers delivered the hampers to their partners.  They were full of all kinds of items from tea towels to Santa hats, chocolate bars to chewy sweets and crisps to candles. One of our partners is nursing her husband back to health as he has recently lost over a stone in weight.  She commented that the tins of soups and chocolates would certainly go some way to fattening him up for Christmas!

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It’s fair to say there were a few tears of joy shed in Sandwell! The Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy team would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas and thank all of the staff and customers at Poundland for their kindness and generosity to people who are affected by cancer. Let’s hope they break the £3m target and continue this amazing show of generosity.

Juanita Williams, Volunteer coordinator.

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My cancer journey

Our thanks to Rod, who shares his story with us below:

Hello my name is Rod and I have recovered from cancer. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was a bit of a surprise but when my wife told me that my left testicle felt like a walnut I thought I’d better get this checked out.

I had surgery to remove the testicle, a very quick operation by the way, and it only took a day before I was walking around again. What I found most difficult to deal with was waiting to find out, I found that more difficult than the treatment. I eventually went to see the consultant and he informed me that the testicle was cancerous and that I would have to undergo a course of treatment. The treatment made me feel sick all of the time and after the first session I got back home and threw up! They prescribed me a course of anti sickness tablets but they made it worse! In all honesty I wasn’t scared about having cancer, my friends were more worried than I was. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t happy about having cancer, but I couldn’t change it, I just had to live with it.

Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that how you live your life has to end. Friends tried to wrap me up in cotton wool and protect me. I was a bit physically limited in what I could do (feeling weak all the time) but I wouldn’t let it stop me from going out and enjoying myself.

The consultant said that is was possible that the cancer could spread through my lymphatic system so the course of treatment was shortish but aggressive. What surprised me the most was still being able to have a physical relationship with my wife, which resulted in the birth of our twins, one of each, I was dead chuffed.

A while later I thought something was wrong again, as I was having constant diarrhoea. Consequently I had a endoscopy, which found nothing, and then a colonoscopy, where various polyps were removed. When I next saw the consultant he informed me that they were in the early stages of change. This time I was a bit worried, as this is what my father had died from. As it turns out I was fortunate, as this was caught early and very recently I received the all clear.

 

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Rod

My volunteering

I am currently unemployed and signed off until April 2017. As a consequence I have plenty of time to spare. I was looking through the doit.org website and came across the peer advocate position, with Sefton Pensioners Advocacy. Certainly when my father was diagnosed with cancer there seemed little or no help or support, which really hadn’t changed that much when I was diagnosed.  I felt that through my own cancer journey and other members of my family I had something to offer in terms of support and guidance.

I have had two clients so far and they have very different stories. Although they are my clients I prefer to just think of them as people that I am supporting. They have both been unique, facing different issues and challenges. One client has already recovered from one form of cancer, only to find out that she has another. There are other complications as well, mostly to do with chronic pain, which she is having treatment for. The main issue this lady has is with mobility, as she had no blue badge she found it difficult to get around as she was limited to where she could park. I successfully applied for her blue badge, which has completely changed things for her, she can now drive to the local village and park outside the supermarket to do her shopping. She is really, really pleased with this as it has given her a greater sense of freedom. Her details were forwarded to the DWP and now she and her husband both receive attendance allowance. Now they can afford to have the house cleaned and garden maintained, which is very important to them both.

My second client has been completely different. He was diagnosed with lung cancer, which had spread to his brain and his diagnosis was terminal. His eyesight was also failing. His behaviour was challenging at times but a lot of this was sheer and utter frustration at not being able to express himself fully. I first visited him in hospital, with a colleague, and his behaviour was challenging. To be fair he had been in hospital for the best part of a month. Eventually he was discharged and he returned home and I was able to support him in terms of getting there, making sure a hospital bed was installed (he had been sleeping on the floor) and ensuring food was delivered (thank you Foodbank). However this only lasted one night and he was then readmitted to hospital. He was then reassessed and admitted to a nursing home. He was much happier with this as he had the space of the whole lower ground floor and a greater sense of freedom. I was able to support him in terms of getting more clothes and taking him to his property, to help him sort through his important documents and things.

He was initially worried about his funeral and also getting in contact with his estranged daughter. On investigation it became apparent that he already had a funeral plan. I helped him to make contact with his daughter again and also arranged for him to have regular communion. During the days before his death he deteriorated drastically, not communicating at all. As he was on morphine every three hours this was hardly surprising. Although I knew he had terminal cancer I still found it a shock when his nursing home informed me that he had died at 6:30am that morning. There were things that I still wanted to guide him with. I have an immense feeling of frustration that I was not able to help as much as I could, but sometimes things just work out that way. The final thing I could do for him was to make sure his daughter was aware of his final wishes and thus I made sure to communicate these to her.

I attended his funeral to pay my last respects.SPAC

Advocacy for me so far has been, challenging, frustrating but ultimately rewarding and will continue to be so.

Rod, Sefton Pensioners’ Advocacy Centre


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Facing Cancer Together: we’re demonstrating the power of independent advocacy

We’re really excited today to announce the publication, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, of our latest collection of older people’s cancer advocacy stories entitled Facing Cancer Together.

In 2014 we published Every Step of the Way, a set of patient stories which illustrated the need – and value – of peer advocacy services for older people living with cancer. In this, our second publication, we bring together a further twelve stories of overcoming struggle, loss and anxiety, illustrating a new reality of what older people living with cancer can and should experience.

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But these stories also speak to a broader societal truth, and contradict the common narrative that the pressure from an ageing population with increasingly complex needs is overwhelming our health and social care system. At the heart of that narrative is a prejudice that older people are somehow too needy, too frail, too dependent and a burden the rest of society is expected to carry. This kind of prejudice robs older people of voice, choice and control. Advocacy – such as in the stories contained in Facing Cancer Together – seeks to return them.

When we read stories like these, we aren’t just reading about the experiences of one older person with cancer; we’re also being gifted rich insight on the big challenges facing policymakers, commissioners and practitioners, such as how to deliver high quality, compassionate, person centred care that enables people to be equal partners in their care; and how to tackle marginalisation, social exclusion and uncertainty; and how to manage the impact of cancer
on family, or emotional health, or housing.

Those challenges are for us all, regardless of age, and the methods of addressing these challenges, by investing in peer advocacy and support, greater community engagement and creating the motivations of staff to involve patients in their own care have a net benefit for all of society.

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Stories are powerful not least because they have the capacity to tell us something about ourselves.
The twelve stories in Facing Cancer Together represent the wide range of experience that our advocacy programme
has encountered across 1500 plus cases over the past five years.

 

We hope that they most of all resonate as examples of the actual support available to provide reassurance, companionship, dignity and, most importantly of voice, choice and control.

We want to thank all of those who were willing to share their stories with us, and the many advocates involved in
the programme.

Jagtar Dhanda, Head of Inclusion Macmillan Cancer Support & Kath Parson Chief Executive OPAAL


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Have you voted in the blog awards yet?

OPAAL has been nominated for a UK Blog Award (best health blog) and we’d really appreciate your vote to help us show that #advocacyworks!

We use the blog as a space where we can amplify the voices of older people affected by cancer, giving them a platform to tell their stories. We have made a decision to be brave about the stories we tell, touching on issues including end of life, bereavement and the realities of living with a cancer diagnosis, either as a patient, a carer or both.

The next stage of the process is the Public Vote, which began on Monday 5th December and runs until Monday 19th December at 10.00am. The UK Blog Awards committee tell us that the calibre and standard of candidates who have entered and been nominated has raised the bar for another year and they cannot wait to award the UK’s content heroes and heroines of 2017!
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The awards are now in their fourth year and have seen a substantial increase in quality of entrants. The UK Blog Awards are the biggest and UK’s longest running programme to recognise influencer talent. 

The Public Vote is an important aspect of the process, as it allows our community to have their say and to show their support for our content. The voting process is quick, simple and effective.

All votes are cast directly from the OPAAL profile page on the UK Blog Awards website. Our page has a unique URL link and can be accessed by clicking here
Marie McWilliams, OPAAL