Someone to rely on- Dorset Cancer Advocacy offering support to older people with cancer
Dorset Cancer Advocacy is an innovative service that offers support and information to older people with cancer.
Marion, Nina’s advocate
Here Nina, 69, a Bournemouth widow who has been battling breast cancer, explains how it helped her cope
“Before my diagnosis I was enjoying retirement and keeping active by walking and cycling, I had never felt so well. I was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine scan and have undergone nearly a year of treatment since then, including two courses of chemo-therapy, surgery and radiotherapy.
I feel lucky that the cancer was found, but when they say cancer it knocks you flying. I’ve told some of my friends just the details that I want them to know, I don’t want to burden them.
I was taking part in a clinical trial during my chemotherapy course. The Research Nurse suggested I try the Dorset Macmillan Advocacy service as it offers home visits.
MAMOGRAM: Screening is to be extended in older women
The service co-ordinator came to meet me at home and then supported me for a short time, including with hospital appoint-ments, before introducing my volunteer advocate Marion Summers to me.
I could share my feelings about the cancer and what has happened to me with the co-ordinator and Marion. I knew they were there to support me. The effects of the chemo-therapy meant I would forget what people said; I felt turned inside out. Other side effects meant that I stopped driving and lost the confidence to use the bus and to go out.
Marion took written notes at hospital appointments for me to refer to afterwards. When I was offered surgery I felt stunned; I wasn’t sure how I would manage at home alone afterwards.
Before my operation Marion gave me information on getting extra help at home and meal deliveries, in case I needed it after my operation, and she also looked into local health walks.
After my operation Marion called to see how I was and find out when I would be going home.
I felt more confident with someone behind me. I was quite afraid of one particular health professional and, when we went in for the appointment, Marion said ‘We’ll do it together’ which helped a lot. I feel listened to.
Now I am getting out more, driving my car again and using the bus for local trips.
It is good to have someone else to rely on when you are alone. After my operation Marion said ‘We’ll be there for you’. It gives you a warm feeling someone saying that.”
One in three are over 70
There are around 1.3 million older people (65+) living with cancer in the UK One in three cases of breast cancer – and more than half of deaths – are in women who are aged 70 or older. Despite this, the age group is not routinely screened, although the cut-off age for screening is to be extended to 73 by 2016. One study has found that elderly women are being denied life-saving breast cancer surgery routinely given to younger patients.
You can read Nina’s story and Marion’s take on advocacy support in Every Step of the Way, our new publication.