CANCER patients at the new Stratford Hospital can expect the very best support.
Work is underway on the Macmillan Information and Support Centre – to be run in partnership with South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT) – entirely dedicated to people affected by cancer.
It will provide the people of Stratford with a place that offers a wide range of support, helping people make informed choices about their treatment and care and taking away some of the fear.
Designed by experts in developing cancer centres, staff and people affected by cancer, the new Macmillan centre will offer a peaceful environment complete with tranquil seating area, a dedicated information point, and a calming private room. There will also be a separate space for complementary therapies and support groups, which has been sponsored by Stratford Town Trust.
District resident Jackie Jackson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and is on the project group for the whole development of the new Stratford Hospital.
The 62 year-old said: “I was a GP at the time of my diagnosis, and a senior partner at my practice. I was working long hours, six days a week sometimes.
“But I found a lump and went for tests. When I went for the results, they said “it’s not straightforward”. That’s when I knew there was an issue. Your mind goes into overdrive – how’s my life going to change? How am I going to manage work and home? It’s very unsettling.
“II had surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and although being a GP I knew what to expect and I wasn’t afraid of the needles, it’s still a huge surprise – the chemo just drains you, and you feel totally washed out for four or five days. Each time you have it, you feel slightly worse than you did the weeks before. The cycles gradually bring you down.
“I enjoy skiing, so I likened my journey to climbing a mountain. As I was getting to the top, it was getting harder and harder. When I got to the plateau I had the radiotherapy, and then I started to come down the other side.
“But you never return to normal. I didn’t have the energy to carry on and work as hard as I did. The drugs I had to take affected my ability to do face-to-face consultations. I retired early, but I’ve learnt to listen to my body, so I have regular power naps.
“I was lucky to have the support of my family and friends, but you get information overload when you’re diagnosed and you don’t know exactly what to read and when. The information centre at the Aylesford Unit at Warwick Hospital was so useful once I started treatment. It becomes a very familiar and a very friendly sort of place where you know there are people who can help you.
“We’ve not had this support in Stratford before, but that’s about to change. It’s my role to make sure patients’ voices are heard and incorporated into the design and working of the new hospital, including the Macmillan centre.
“When I was diagnosed, it was so important to me to get information about the condition, my treatment options, what the side effects of my treatment could be and basically just knowing what to expect. How else could I have made decisions about those sorts of things?
“The information centre at the Aylesford Unit gave me this and made me aware of local groups of people in the same situation with whom I could share experiences over a cup of coffee. That’s the sort of support we’ve got to look forward with the new Macmillan centre at Stratford Hospital.”
Carole Connor, SWFT cancer nurse consultant, said more than 1,500 people in south Warwickshire were diagnosed with cancer and around 8,100 people were living with the consequences of the disease.
She added: “The number of people needing treatment is increasing, so too is the need for specialist support and information at every stage of the cancer journey. That’s why we are so pleased to be working with Macmillan to build the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre based in the new Stratford Hospital.
“A visit to the new Macmillan centre will provide people affected by cancer with the chance to ask questions and talk through their concerns with specialist staff and trained volunteers. It will hold booklets and leaflets about cancer and information on financial support.”
Macmillan has spent £190,000 to build the centre which is on track to open with the rest of the new hospital this summer.
Sarah Diston, fundraising manager for Macmillan in south Warwickshire, said “We’re also going to fund a Macmillan cancer information and support specialist to be based at the centre, so we’ve committed an extra £175,000 which will cover the first three years of this role. They will help cancer patients with personalised, high-quality and accurate information, along with appropriate support to understand and act on it.
“So from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond, we’ll be able to offer vital help in this beautiful new space, with experts in coping with cancer.
“But we couldn’t have done it without the efforts of the individuals and local businesses across the region who’ve been helping us raise funds. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their support, and encourage others to get involved, so we can do even more for people affected by cancer in our area.”
To support Macmillan in south Warwickshire call 0300 1000 200.