Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Last year when I attended the NCCSHG conference, I was invited to lead a workshop, and was glad to do so. Not surprisingly I talked about Life in the Cancer Fallout Zone, and on the form there were three workshop slots listed. As I didn’t mind when I gave the workshop I ticked all 3 boxes – and ended up running the workshop 3 times! Now, I didn’t mind this and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with each set of participants, but it was rather tiring!
Fast forward to 2010 and I was again asked if I would like to lead a workshop. This time, though, I knew I was only going to be there for one workshop session, so I said no. Instead I decided to do something for myself – to attend a workshop. I went to learn a little more about crystals and particularly pendulums – and it gave me a real boost before I set off on the long drive home to Dorset. The drive went well and I arrived home in good spirits. Compare that to how I might have felt had I been ‘working’ up until I left the conference.
When someone in the family has cancer, it can seem really radical to do something for yourself. But it can also do a lot of good. Sometimes it’s extra hard because it means saying no to someone or something – as I did. What I found was that although I didn’t need to I explained that I was taking care of myself – and got a really positive response.
There are so many demands in life that sometimes you end up with no time to call your own. You may even want to do all the things you are asked to do, or invited to attend. But maybe next time before you say ‘yes’ automatically you should think about what else is already happening. You may want to do each thing, but do you really want to do all of them? And if saying yes really means saying no to doing something for yourself then maybe a gentle ‘I’d love to, but I’m afraid I can’t’ would enable you to be more supportive in the long run.
PS It won’t make you a selfish person!

Read Full Post »

Last year I attended the National Conference of Cancer Self-Help Groups (NCCSHG for short) cancer conference, and in doing so I missed my sons’ school fete day. This year they clashed again and the boys came first, but I was still able to go to the cancer conference 2010 for one day – dashing up to Manchester and visiting family as well!
Even though I was only at the conference for a short time, it felt very different from last year. I already knew where to go, recognised some faces (and some remembered me too), and felt altogether more relaxed. I guess I’m like most people – I prefer places and people I know. But if I hadn’t been prepared to attend last year for the first time then I would have been missing out, as this is a truly excellent event.
I’ll be reporting back my impressions and comments on the sections of the conference I did take part in over the next several weeks – in fact it may take the whole summer as there is so much to think about!
My first impression though is that for me there was a theme to the conference. It wasn’t an official theme, just something that came up a few times and meant something to me. The theme was ‘Who Am I?’
This is an issue that can come up for someone with cancer as their world and self-image is rocked – and this has a knock-on effect for everyone around them. It is an issue for friends and family as their role alters, sometimes dramatically if they are thrust into a caring role. I’ll be looking at these issues in more depth in future posts, but for now I would be interested to hear your stories. How was your self-image affected by cancer diagnosis or treatments? Was it someone else who felt all at sea and that affected you? Please share your story as a response to this post, or feel free to email me.

Read Full Post »

I’ve just returned from the MacMillan Cancer Voices conference, where the issue of cancer advocacy was explored in detail. So what does it mean? What is cancer advocacy?
To put it a more straightforward way, cancer advocacy is about speaking out. Telling about your experience as a patient or family member helps in many ways. It lets the medical profession know about what they are doing right – and what can be improved upon. It helps organisations like MacMillan and Families Facing Cancer know what your issues are, so they can provide services or lobby for change (such as the recent scrapping of charges for drugs for people with cancer in England). It also lets others know that they are not alone in their struggles, which can provide some peace of mind at a difficult time.
Hearing stories at the conference brought home that much has changed in the medical treatment of cancer since the early 1990s when my mother was ill. There is much less in-patient treatment, people go home earlier after surgery and chemotherapy is likely to be administered on an outpatient basis. These changes are generally welcomed by those receiving treatment. More changes are likely to follow in the years to come, and health services are taking note of the wishes of their service users more than has ever been the case in the past. It seems that speaking out does make a difference.
It does take courage to speak out – courage to talk about an illness that can involve parts of the body we don’t normally mention; courage to examine relationships and the effect the illness has had on them; and courage to relive emotions which may have pushed you to the edge. Those at the conference, though, would be keen to tell you what they have gained from their advocacy. They gain confidence from putting themselves forward and having their views valued. They gain a sense of purpose – especially if by talking about something that went wrong for them, they can prevent it happening to another. They gain a sense of community by joining with others to make a difference. Living in the ‘world of cancer’ when you don’t have to may seem an odd choice to make. But it is not the depressing world you might imagine. One of the newest Cancer Voices at the conference said with a hint of wonder – ‘I never expected it to be fun!’ Of course it is the people that make it so, but also the ability to make a difference.
You can join in too – by emailing us at Families Facing Cancer to let us know what issues you need addressed, or by signing up as a Cancer Voice with MacMillan. We want your voice to be heard.

Read Full Post »

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 »

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 »

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.