The new cancer and wellbeing centre WILL make a difference to the lives of our patients and their families. It will mean that no one going through cancer treatment in North Devon will have to go through it alone.
The centre will offer a wide range of information and support services within a comfortable, non-clinical welcoming environment. This will include a drop in service, information on cancer and other conditions, financial and benefits advice, complementary therapies, counselling and psychological support, hair loss support, nutritional advice, health and wellbeing events, support groups and courses such as Look Good, Feel Better This wellbeing centre will help our patients to alleviate stress and build up their confidence and self-esteem encouraging them to live their lives to their full potential. We know that cancer and acute illnesses can affect the whole family, so the centre will be available to relatives and carers too so that they can receive support and ask any questions they may have about conditions and treatments as well as any concerns they may have about themselves. A relatives accommodation wing will offer 3 en-suite family bedrooms offering overnight accommodation for all specialties. We know that our inpatients benefit from having family and visitors close by at a time when they need it the most, which is difficult for those families who live in rural areas that lack regular public transport.
Lisas story sums up why this centre will make a difference Five years ago at the age of 29 I found my breast cancer. Having had no family or friends my age who had even had cancer I instantly felt very isolated. My nearest support link was an 1 hour and 20 minutes away, a journey I couldnt have faced during my chemotherapy, a journey I didnt want to make any more after the three consecutive weeks of radiotherapy and a dreaded reminder after my mastectomy of what Id lost last time I travelled to that area. When I was re-diagnosed two years ago there still was no local support, however I met another young lady a year ahead of me from treatment, and from this special friendship we developed a local online community which now has over 50 ladies in it from North Devon. We meet at a local coffee shop where we chat, but the most pressing conversations cannot take place there - the ones involving our fertility, our sex drive our change in body image, our deepest thoughts and worries about death - because the coffee shop isnt the right environment. As a group of younger ladies, balancing our lives after treatment with full time jobs to continue to pay mortgages, for some of us looking after their partners and children, and then as quick as finishing chemotherapy spinning back on the wheel of life after such a shock diagnosis looking after yourself can get harder as there is no support where we are able to release all those after issues caused by cancer and so they bubble away inside of you. I used to think people were joking with the expression scanxiety; however Ive learnt this is an actual fear. I personally go into survival mode one and a half weeks before a scan. I fear for my life ... is this the appointment they see the cancer, how am I going to break the news to everyone I love, how am I going to deal with it all, whats my little boy going to do without his mummy? Yet I have nowhere safe to collect these thoughts, not even our online support group can help because its all of our worst fears. This is why a North Devon well-being centre is so highly needed a sanctuary you can head to where youre surrounded by information or people who understand where you are in life. A place where you can meet others or join a group and speak about the taboo subjects because there is a trained group counsellor to talk to. A place where you can just BE with no demand expected of you. One thing I remember after my second diagnosis was stumbling into the Force Centre in Exeter and just saying My cancers back. It was here that myself, my husband and my mother were sat down, we were all given a cup of tea and biscuits and just asked by the volunteer what had we been told. This volunteer wasnt a nurse or a doctor, nor a specialist of any kind - what she was, was a kind, gentle person with an understanding of cancer - a gentle voice and a person who had time to listen. A person to let us say what we had been through, what we were feeling and someone who helped us to gather our thoughts so that we felt safe to get into the car and travel home again.
When my husband and I visit friends, the partners of those with cancer suddenly break down to my husband about how they are feeling, only to find at the end our visit with them that they also feel a sense of relief as they realise all these emotions theyve let out are completely normal because cancer can be incredibly isolating not only for the patients but for our families as well - theyve often gone through a long period of time having nobody to communicate just how they are feeling. In North Devon we have no support like this. I believe such a centre would be an absolute asset to cancer patients and their families in North Devon.
For more information visit Cancer and Wellbeing Centre Appeal