Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2009

Prof. Nicola Robinson

Prof. Nicola Robinson

Back to the NCCSHG conference, I’m now looking at the presentations made by a series of fabulous and interesting folks on a variety of topics. The first was Professor Nicola Robinson of Thames Valley University on the subject of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) and especially research.
So what is CAM – Prof. Robinson described it as ‘health care lying outside conventional medicines’. She also said that 80% of the world’s population relies on what we call ‘alternative’ medicine. So really what we mean by conventional medicine is modern science-based disease care. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, that modern care may very well save their life. But it is not the whole answer. If it was, there would not be an upsurge in the demand from patients for CAM treatments and therapies.
According to Prof. Robinson, 86% of cancer patients use CAM to complement conventional treatment. The reasons for this include:

  • dissatisfaction with conventional treatments offered
  • attempts to lessen the impact of side-effects of conventional treatment
  • wanting a holistic approach (which also relates to patient empowerment)
  • alleviating the effects of chronic disease which can be managed but not cured

According to a book I read recently, ‘Cancer : 50 Essential Things to Do’ by Greg Anderson, people who have survived in spite of being told they are terminally ill have several strategies in common. One of the most powerful of these is being pro-active about their own health. They regard it as their job to become well, not someone else’s job to fix what is wrong with them. I believe CAM has an important part to play in this. 96% of the survivors Greg Anderson interviewed had undertaken a course of conventional treatment – but they also looked at such areas as nutrition, exercise and spiritual development. (I will review this book in more detail in a future post)
So CAM has a place in cancer care. In the UK more than 90% of cancer care centres offer some kind of touch based therapy. Professor Robinson’s role is in investigating what the benefits are. How do we measure the improvements that people experience? How can we give people more information to empower them to make informed choices about the therapies they want to integrate into their care?
I, for one, am pleased to see that both money and energy are being put into taking the best from all healing traditions so we can have a future where wellness is a priority. I hope that the research will also look at how therapies can be used to reduce stress, for instance for family members of those with cancer. My gut feeling is that this could have a preventative effect and reduce the likelihood of going on to develop stress-related illnesses as a result of supporting someone else.
If you have used CAM treatments, either as a person with cancer or a supporter, I would love to hear from you what difference it made to you.

With best wishes,
Anne x

Read Full Post »

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the actual word ‘cancer’ might not even be used. The doctor might say ‘carcinoma’ or ‘leukaemia’ or some other technical word. You may have come across these words before, but do you know what they actually mean?
It’s like learning to speak a whole new language. The doctors already speak this language, so they may not realise if you are confused. Or you may be a family member who doesn’t even get to speak to a doctor.
Confusion about what is actually going on could cause unnecessary fear, and we want to avoid that. So we’ve put together some information on our website to explain the words and phrases you may come across. We’ve kept it simple, and you can search for more detailed information later if you need it. Why not take a look at Cancer Words Explained to clear up any confusion? If there’s anything you still don’t understand, or the word you’re looking for isn’t on the list yet, just send us an email and we’ll get right on it.

Knowledge is power.

Anne x

Read Full Post »

I’m in the process of writing a booklet for our website. As part of that I’ve been asking people what are the first things they want to know when someone in their family is diagnosed with cancer. One thing I have noticed is how different people are in how much they want to know. I guess it comes down to personality.
Some people seem to want to know every detail about the illness, and treatments. They want to read up on the medical details. I think perhaps this serves two purposes – it gives them something to do, and it makes them feel a little more in control.
There are others, though, who just don’t want that kind of detail. They may want to know whether the person is likely to come through ok, or whether they will die. Or they might not even want to know that. They may just want to be optimistic and hope for the best.
So which approach is right? Or does it even matter? Well, I don’t think there is a ‘right’ approach, and it’s fine to work with your natural personality. But the first, and possibly the hardest, thing to accept is – you are not in control.
If someone else has cancer, they are the only one who has control over that illness – or at least their response to it. You can find out all the technical information you want about the illness, get statistics and projected time-frames. None of that will tell you whether they will get better, or how long they have left.
What you can do is to accept that what will be, will be. If the person who has cancer wants you to research lots of information, or it makes you feel better, by all means do that. Help them as much as you are able, if that’s what they want. Just accept that you are not getting facts about them, only generalisations.
A far better focus, I think, is communication. A good relationship where you can talk about anything and everything will give you much more information about the person – who is after all much more important than the disease.
I would love to hear about your experience and your thoughts. What happened when your friend or family member was diagnosed? How much information did you seek out? Did it help? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Best wishes,
Anne x

Read Full Post »

Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Network's iVan

Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Network's iVan

Continuing on with insights and learning I gained recently at the NCCSHG, I wanted to think about cancer prevention. According to the presentation given by Professor Mike Richards, the UK’s National Cancer Director, over 50% of cases of cancer are ‘preventable’. Figures I’ve seen in other places vary, but this figure of 50% is often quoted. So what does it mean, preventable? Well, first of all Professor Richards was keen to point out that avoiding cancer does not mean living forever. But we have quite a lot of evidence now to show that cancers are more common when we have a poor diet, low levels of exercise and are overweight. Unfortunately, all those things are quite common in our society, and possibly getting more so.

The good news is that it’s not too late. By making exercise and health a priority in our lives we can be more resistant to stress, feel better, be less likely to get cancer (or have a recurrence), and have more fun!

At the conference there was a yellow van, which you can see in the photo with its manager Sandra Rowlands. He is very jolly and inviting and is affectionately known as iVan. Sandra and iVan’s job is to tour around their local area (Merseyside and Cheshire), answering peoples questions and fears around cancer – and spreading the message of prevention. You can find out more about iVan at www.mccn.nhs.uk.

So have you seen iVan around town? What did you think? Do you think a similar service would make a difference in your area? What are you personally doing to stay healthy (I started a Wii fitness program this year)? Why do you think the cancer prevention message hasn’t got through yet? What will it take for that to happen? Please join the debate and let me know what you think in the comments on this blog.

Anne x

Read Full Post »

To hear Anne talking about her book ‘Their Cancer – Your Journey’, and why family and friends need support through someone else’s cancer, here is an interview on The Bay Radio :

Read Full Post »

Last weekend I attended the UK’s National Conference of Cancer Self-Help Groups (NCCSHG). Just like most of the groups themselves, this is organised on a volunteer basis. But the quality of the conference was of a fabulously high standard. There was camaraderie, understanding, passion of the volunteers, and a range of fascinating and entertaining speakers. I didn’t get to take part in any of the workshops (because I was giving one), but the range on offer ran from card making to the future of support groups.

It was my first time at the conference, and I thought it would be good to report my impressions. Over the next few weeks, in addition to other items of interest, I’m going to be revisiting the conference to share with you some of what I learned. There were definitely highs and lows, especially as one of the long-established volunteers sadly died over the course of the weekend. But the spirit of the members – most of whom have experienced cancer themselves, or supported a family member, and now give up their time to help others – was what particularly shone through for me. It was a joy to be there, from the good humour and friendliness of the delegates through to the fabulous buffet lunches provided at Manchester University’s Fallowfield Campus.

So I’d like to start with just thinking a little about Cancer Self-Help or Support Groups. Why are they important? What do people gain from them? I think the first thing is probably that sense that someone understands what you are going through. Also, the best groups are very positive – one lady has told me the group she is part of call themselves a Cancer Survivors Wellness Group, which is a great focus. Another aspect I believe is time to talk. Sadly on a visit to a doctor there is likely to be very little time for reality to sink in enough to even think of questions, let alone ask them and have them answered. Some people may access this support through a MacMillan nurse or a Cancer Liason Nurse – but those who have experienced cancer themselves or through a family member also have a wealth of wisdom and empathy to offer. I would love to hear about your experience of support groups. What do you or have you got out of attending (or volunteering)? Are there enough groups? Are they easy to find? Please post in the comments and join the discussion.

Well, those are my first impressions. I’ll share more later, and look forward to hearing from you either in the comments or by sending me a message.

Anne x

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.