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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The Relate Macmillan Counselling Service is now available in the West Midlands

Macmillan Cancer Support has formed a partnership with Relate West Midlands to offer free relationship counselling to anyone affected by cancer. It’s a regional project for the West Midlands and is open to residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and South Staffordshire for 3 years (up to April 2019).  Here the coordinator tells us about the service:

I’m Eileen Clews and I’d like to introduce myself as the Coordinator of this new service. It’s a job I’m delighted to have because cancer can have a huge impact on families and friendships.

When we talk about relationships, it’s not just about your other half. It can also be about brothers, sisters, mums, dads, and carers. The people around us make a huge difference to how happy we are, and strong relationships can help us get through life’s tough challenges, like cancer. 

Eileen Clews

Eileen Clews

Some of the people who come to see us are single and don’t have a lot of family, we work with them on strengthening the support they do have around them.  Others are partners or relatives who find an hour a week to talk to a counsellor about their concerns very helpful. The majority of those we see are patients or ex-patients as we are there to help whether the diagnosis was recent or some years ago.

When you come to see a counsellor the first appointment is always a consultation. This is to find out a bit about the issues and ensure we are the right people to be seeing you at this time.  After this there are 7 further sessions available.

At the moment we are offering appointments at Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Solihull Relate offices but if we get enough demand there is the possibility of using our sites in Dudley and Oldbury.  Unfortunately, we can’t come and see people in their own home but we can offer Telephone Counselling if people can’t get to us.

While many of the referrals to the Relate Macmillan Counselling Service have come through the NHS, you can also refer yourself.  To do that or simply find out more about what we offer contact me on 0121 643 1638 or by email macmillan@relatebirmingham.co.uk

Very soon after I was in post, Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) came forward to tell me about what they do and recruit me onto their Steering Group! I am very happy to be part of this and am impressed with the work they are doing in Sandwell.  This is an area I have worked in before when I ran a project for The People’s Orchestra in West Brom (not a musical one, that would not have gone well). While the geographical area for this new counselling service covers most of the West Midlands, I am hoping that we will get some referrals from Sandwell and surrounding areas.

If you know of anyone who might benefit from some relationship counselling, who has been affected by cancer, please do tell them about the Relate Macmillan Counselling Service.

There are further details on our website

http://relatebirmingham.co.uk/our-services/the-relate-macmillan-counselling-service/


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World’s Biggest Coffee Morning ……. Again!

Juanita Williams, Volunteer Coordinator from Sandwell Advocacy’s Cancer, Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) project paints a vivid picture of this year’s World’s Greatest Coffee Morning and what it means:

It’s September and to me that means one thing to me –  not the end of the summer, not the children and teachers going back to school – It’s the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. 

I have been hosting coffee mornings since 2006 as my way of thanking Macmillan Cancer Support for supporting our family on my dad’s cancer journey.  I have raised thousands of pounds for Macmillan over the last ten years but I have had so much back. Every time I do something for them, another opportunity seems to come my way which enriches my life.  I suppose that’s what happens for the volunteers here at SCOPA.  They came along to give something back and in return they get a sense of achievement knowing they have made a difference to someone’s life. It’s a really positive and rewarding cycle.

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I know I have written blogs about it before as have many other Cancer Older People and Advocacy projects but the events are always so different.  Firstly, every year we have a new Mayor.  This year we were joined by Cllr. Julie Webb.  She spent lots of time talking to local residents and volunteers about the work of SCOPA and Macmillan.  She is very aware of how cancer affects so many people in her ward, across the borough and the rest of the country. 

We also had a very special guest from Macmillan Cancer Support.  John Pearson is the Executive Director of Cancer Support Operations.  I met John for the first time back in 2014 when I was taking part in an “extreme” Macmillan Cancer Support cycling challenge over the Himalayas in India.  John and his wife were also cycling and camping on this really tough ride.  I think that’s what I really like about John – he works for Macmillan but he also raises thousands of pounds for the charity.  I’ve seen his Facebook pictures – he runs, cycles, sails, treks, hosts black tie events, serves water at marathon pit stops, gets up at ungodly hours to sell at car boots, barbeques, makes tea for little old ladies and sports a green afro wig with style when called for! And that’s in his spare time!

As a very active volunteer and fund raiser himself John totally gets what it is we are doing here in Sandwell on the Cancer Older Peoples Advocacy project.  It was for this reason I wanted to invite him to meet our volunteers and some of their partners who are being supported.  I wanted him to see what a huge difference SCOPA and Macmillan can make to an area like Sandwell.

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We opened the event at 10.00am.  It was an early start for myself and my friend Jenny who works at Sandwell Irish Community Association where we host the event.  Jenny does all the work over at the venue, making sure the room is booked, hiring materials to dress the room and sourcing prizes for the raffle.  I couldn’t do the event without her support.  The SCOPA staff team arrived next and set about making sure everything was ready for our guests to turn up.

 

Next to arrive was my mom, Cath.  Mom spends her leisure time crafting and always puts on a fabulous stall full of handmade gifts.  She has learned that it’s never too early to start selling Christmas items and this year’s creations included knitted handbags, felt flower brooches, Steam Punk boxes (you will have to Google that one as it’s too difficult for me to explain) and fairy houses.  The Mayor is always brought to the event by the Sergeant at Arms (chauffeurs to you and me). This year we were joined by Kennedy and he always informs the Mayor about the event prior to her arriving so she knows what to expect.

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Eventually all of our guests get to sit down and enjoy a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake.  We have so many talented supporters who bring along their cakes.  The cupcakes always look splendid stacked high on the cake stands but the Victoria sponges, chocolate sponges, lemon drizzle, rocky road slabs, banana loaves and coffee & walnut cakes are equally as delicious. This year we were treated to a magnificent chocolate cake covered in soft icing and Maltesers.  Apparently there were no calories in it at all (that’s what she said!) I can honestly say that the bakers of Sandwell never let us down. 

Sandwell council sent along one of the communications team to take photographs of the event. This year we were also joined by an apprentice who spent time photographing the cakes.  These all went onto Twitter, Facebook and to the local Express and Star newspaper.  We were a bit cheeky and we asked the photographer to take a few extra shots for us to use ourselves.  We plied him with cake and he didn’t refuse.

Throughout the morning the SCOPA volunteers, board members and staff were all on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly.  Some served refreshments, others washed up and some were simply there to listen – that’s what we do – and we do it well.  This year we were joined again by some of our partners, its lovely for all of us to meet with them face to face as often we only get to chat on the telephone. It’s always good to put a face to a name and a voice.

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We drew the raffle and you could hear a pin drop as people waited anxiously to hear if their number was being called.  The gifts had been generously donated to us and included orchid flowers, chocolates, champagne, toiletries and much more. In total we raised over £380.00 and this has been paid in and is on my Justgiving page.

Here at SCOPA we have built very successful relationships with our Macmillan colleagues, both on the wards and out in the community.  Their involvement is key to the promotion of our service and we really appreciate their help, likewise they value what we can do for them.  When we host a coffee morning we are able to promote the SCOPA project and get the word out to both professionals and the local community. I work with wonderful people who are all striving to make these journeys a little easier.  I can’t think of a better way to network and reach out to people – but that’s because I simply love a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake! What a great job our SCOPA team are doing.

Juanita Williams, SCOPA


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“I wanted to be more than “Nanny” in my retirement”

In today’s post Sherry, a peer volunteer advocate with Sandwell Advocacy’s Sandwell Cancer Older People Advocacy (SCOPA) project, tells us her volunteering story:

My name is Sherry and I have been a volunteer at Sandwell Advocacy since March 2015.  I was a staff nurse for over 45 years and when I retired in 2014 I was adamant I was going to do something productive with my time.  I have grandchildren who I adore but having had a very demanding career I wanted to be more than “Nanny” in my retirement.  I trained in Chester then worked in plastic surgery, something I thoroughly enjoyed. My final working years were spent as an ophthalmic nurse in Sandwell. Shortly before I retired I was diagnosed with breast cancer, this was a shock to me as I had always attended screening and knew exactly what to look for.  I received radiotherapy and chemotherapy and continued to work throughout. I am still under surveillance and attend yearly mammograms but “Once a nurse, always a nurse” I continue to stay busy.

I met Paddy and Juanita at a Cancer wellbeing fayre hosted by the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals and they told me about the exciting new project they were working on, supporting people over the age of fifty who are affected by cancer – a perfect opportunity for me to put my skills and experience to good use.  I took part in the training and was soon partnered with a woman who had agreed to advocacy as she had some housing issues. My own experience helped me enormously as I had a good idea of what my partner was going through emotionally and I soon developed an extensive knowledge of housing policy.  Although the partnership has ended I feel I have made a very positive contribution to my partner’s journey and she knows she can come back to SCOPA if she feels she needs our help again.  With the knowledge I gained I was recently able to support one of my elderly neighbours who needed to move out of his flat whilst major work was being carried out. I wouldn’t have known about such things prior to becoming an advocate. I have also been instrumental in getting a gas supply to the flats where I live in order that I (and other tenants) can manage our heating more suitably. Overnight storage heaters are not the best if you need to adjust the temperature frequently as a result of medication. They do say you learn something new every day.

Sherry

Sherry

Throughout my career I had experience of advocates and their role but it has been challenging and very rewarding to be on the other side of the relationship.  My knowledge of the NHS and hospital policies has helped me no end and I have enjoyed visiting hospitals with my partner who was not confident in this environment.  I was able to ask a lot of questions on her behalf to ensure she was fully able to make informed choices.

I now have a new partnership with a husband and wife, they also have housing issues although totally different.  I have enjoyed running around for them and making phone calls to assist them in downsizing to a more manageable property. They appreciate my matter of fact approach and particularly the fact that I have time, something they haven’t always got.

I haven’t limited my volunteering to advocacy practice, I have joined the Local Cancer Champion Board as I feel I have professional experience which will benefit the project. I have also ventured down to Vauxhall in London with Juanita, the volunteer coordinator, to attend a National Champions Board meeting at Macmillan HQ – that was a long and tiring day but I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with other champions and staff on the programme.  I have taken part in the national evaluation of the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Programme  by BRAP and was also involved in Working Together for Change led by Helen Sanderson Associates which again drew on other aspects of my experience.

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I would recommend volunteering to anyone like me who wants to give something back.  Additionally for any retired professionals who want to do something similar to what they have done as a career, this is an ideal opportunity to be part of a valued and respected team.  If anyone out there is thinking about becoming a peer advocate I would recommend you talk to someone who is volunteering and find out first-hand what it’s like, I think you will get a positive response.

Sherry, Sandwell Cancer Older People & Advocacy


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Having two jobs is interesting…

Juanita Williams, volunteer coordinator at Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) writes about her two-job existence:

As volunteer co-ordinator at Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) I work here two days a week. The other three days are spent at Rights and Equality Sandwell as Project Co-ordinator for a Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) oral history project called “Where’s our spake gone?”

Having two jobs is interesting. Remembering which keys, phone and ID badge to take out often gets confusing (especially at my age) but wearing two hats when networking at meetings has its benefits.  With this in mind I went along to talk to a Cancer Support Group run by one of our Local Cancer Champions Board (LCCB) members.  Although three of the women were interested in joining us as Advocacy volunteers; health, work and life in general got in the way and to date none of them have joined us – yet.

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Juanita

With my HLF hat on I went back to their group this week with one of the artists we have commissioned to work on the project. Mandy Ross is a poet and is creating work for our project based around Black Country dialect and food.  She read some poetry to the group and then asked them to reflect on their childhood and try to write down some of their memorable food stories.  This session normally lasts for an hour, on this occasion they stayed for almost two.

It was lovely to hear other people’s memories and the laughter resulting from their tales.  We have a saying in the Black Country that you can eat everything on the pig “but the squale” (his squeal!).  It would seem that this group remembered vividly the smell of tripe boiling in their grannies kitchens, eating raw rhubarb dipped in sugar, toasting pikelets (crumpets) by the open fire, popping peas out the pods and chobbling on Teddy Grays suck (sweets to you).

All in all, it was a great session and Terri Rutter, our LCCB member, thanked us for including them in the project and said what a breath of fresh air it was for the group, who for obvious reasons, are not always in the most cheerful of moods.  If you are interested in our project, go to www.ourspake.co.uk

Incidentally, if you listen to the Black Country nativity you will hear a member of Sandwell Advocacy staff and two of our volunteers! That’s what I call making the most of having two jobs!

As we say in the Black Country – Tarrabit!

Juanita Williams, SCOPA


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We celebrated our volunteer achievements at a Christmas lunch

In this post Jaunita Williams, Volunteer Coordinator at Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA), tells us about a special festive lunch:

In December 2015 we invited our new Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) volunteers to join staff and management board members for Christmas lunch.
We chose a local pub and sent out the invitations with the menu choices. We were delighted they were able to join us in celebrating our year’s achievements. Our cancer advocacy volunteers were able to chat with everyone about their plans for the upcoming holiday period and we reflected on their contribution to the project. We had an enjoyable festive lunch and lots of laughs!


I have since been able to catch up with four of our volunteers and I asked them to define what it was that motivated them to get involved with the project and what they felt they had gained from volunteering. These are their responses.
• Sherry – as a breast cancer survivor and retired nurse I felt I had so much to offer to other people going through what I went through. I didn’t want to wait, I knew I was ready to start volunteering and I was given an advocacy partner quite quickly. I’ve supported her through a temporary displacement move and attended some hospital visits. I am really happy with how it is progressing and am looking forward to another partnership in the New Year.
• Andy – Recent circumstances out of my control meant I was wasn’t able to keep up my weekly visits. SCOPA staff supported me and attended meetings that I couldn’t go to. It’s all done at my pace and I feel I am making a difference and am appreciated. All the staff at SCOPA are helpful and I drop in whenever I am passing.
• Viv – I was placed with my advocacy partner within weeks of the training. As a survivor myself I knew how lonely it can be even when you have your family around you. I see my advocacy partner about once a week and we chat, he has lots of family and friends but they don’t know what’s on his mind. We find it easy to talk about his treatment and issues.
• Jim – I worked as a manager of a residential home for years and pretty much knew what to expect. SCOPA set up my advocacy partnership back in November but I have still to meet my partner. Her circumstances have changed quite quickly and she is now in a hospice, It is what it is, this is the nature of the work we do. Referrals take time to settle and I’m not surprised with how it’s going. Fortunately Sandwell Advocacy found other work for me to do, interviewing residents and family members in local homes. This is a really good use of my time and I feel that Sandwell Advocacy are allowing me to use my skills and experience to their best advantage.

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As we are now well into the New Year and back at our work we are happy to have recruited two further volunteers and we hope that our “old hands” will be available to talk to the new ones and be able to share their experiences and offer advice and support in addition to the full training package they will be attending.

Juanita Williams, Volunteer Coordinator, SCOPA


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We celebrated the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning in Sandwell

The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is Macmillan Cancer Support’s annual flagship fundraiser and celebrated its 25th birthday on Friday 25th September. Here, Juanita Williams tells us about getting involved this year:

On the morning of Friday 25th September  we at Sandwell Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project (SCOPA) hosted The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning at Sandwell Irish Community Centre in Langley Lodge, Langley.

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The Worshipful the Mayor Cllr. Barbara Price arrived promptly at 10.00am together with the Deputy Mayor Cllr. Julie Webb. In my role as SCOPA volunteer coordinator, I welcomed them to the event and introduced them to Project Manager, Dave Bradshaw and Chairperson, Lesley Donnelly.

They spent time talking to the SCOPA staff about the project before settling down for a cup of tea and piece of homemade cake.

The event was supported by SCOPA staff, SCOPA Local Cancer Champions and SCOPA volunteers who were all on hand baking cakes, selling refreshments and generally making everyone welcome.  We had lots of information available to share with members of the public about the work we are doing at SCOPA and twelve months into the project we have experience of what exactly the needs are of the people who use our service and how volunteering can make a huge difference to their lives.  Two volunteers Sherry and Andy were all on hand to talk about their own experiences.

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Paddy Elmore Advocate, Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mrs Julie Webb, The worshipful the Mayor of Sandwell, Cllr Mrs Barbara Price, Juanita Williams Vol co-ord, Dave Bradshaw Project Manager, Lesley Donnelly – Chair of Sandwell Advocacy

I have been hosting The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning for nine years now and I was keen for everyone to be recognised for their time and effort. This included a group of dedicated volunteers and my own mum, Cath Mansell, who has been baking, making and selling cakes and craft items to raise money since 2005 when Macmillan Nurses supported the family during my dad’s cancer journey.

SCOPA-logoSandwell Irish Community Association have been supporting Sandwell Advocacy and Macmillan Cancer Support for many years and this annual event is very well attended by the local residents of the village and farther afield.  It’s a lovely relaxed way to spend time with people, chatting over a cup of tea about our work, often they share their own stories with us.

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SCOPA Project Manager, Dave Bradshaw was keen to host this event again, twelve months after the SCOPA launch. He commented “This is the second event in a row that we have supported and I am delighted to have done so again.  It is interesting to note how far the SCOPA project has come since last year’s event and extremely encouraging to witness the levels of support provided to older people affected by cancer by both project staff and volunteer advocates.  It is events such as this that underline the importance of integrated support services for people affected by cancer and their families, as well as the important role people can have as volunteers in supporting others through their cancer journeys.”

Juanita Williams, Sandwell Advocacy