Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

It’s that time of year again………..

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And I don’t mean Christmas shopping and January sales! December and the New Year is a time we tend to look back over the last 12 months. What a year it has been for OPAAL!

January 2014 dawned with some uncertainty and success for the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Programme. Three of the pilot sites, Beth Johnson Foundation, Help and Care, Bournemouth and Dorset Advocacy had successfully been granted funds from Macmillan Cancer Support to continue the cancer advocacy projects for another three years and so emerged Dorset Macmillan Advocacy and Staffordshire Cancer Advocacy and Support Project.


The uncertainty was around the OPAAL bid for Flagship Funding from the Big Lottery. £1 million at stake to sustain and grow the Programme.  The Management Group had decided to hold an Event in March hosted by Macmillan to launch the advocacy publication “Every Step of the Way” and to celebrate the success of the pilot …………… and yes, the word came through in time, to celebrate further investment from Big Lottery and Macmillan.

BIG logo hi_big_e_min_blue

March 25th saw many of us gathered  at Macmillan UK Offices in Vauxhall when we could share our experiences during the pilot phase, celebrate the continued success and expansion of the Programme – welcoming new partners from Cardiff, Bristol, Knowsley, Preston, Oxford, Sandwell and  to launch the advocacy stories “Every Step of the Way”.

Hi Res cover

Unfortunately one of the pilot sites, Gateshead, had to drop out of the Programme so with sadness we said our farewells to Alan.

The continued funding has enabled the Programme to work with strategic partners such as AgeUK Camden, WebEnable, Helen Sanderson Associates, Peter Stone Associates, Red Design and TwoCan.  Work with these partners increases continually and members of the Programme are benefitting from OLGBT training, SAM developments and tools to measure impact. Exciting developments when money is tight and cutbacks is the theme all around us.

May saw the new delivery partners getting started in their areas and the “oldies” supporting them with coaching and mentoring. Visits to the pilot sites took place and everyone got to grips with SAM!

June was the first Programme Management Group with all partners present, Marie did a sterling job leading the team. We then met again in September with all sharing their experiences of their local set up stage.

Marie McWilliams, OPAAL

Marie McWilliams, OPAAL

December 3rd saw us all together again from another quarterly Management Group Meeting and what a packed agenda it was. We welcomed Kim Beresford to the meeting as the newest recruit to the OPAAL Team. Marie and Kim will be working closely together on two more successful projects. Older People’s Cancer Voices, funded by The Department of Health’s Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development Fund and SANOFI is funding the new Train the Trainer project.  We heard from Kath that Impetus will be joining us in the New Year and that there are further possibilities of more organisations coming on board, fingers crossed!

National Project Management Board

National Project Management Board

We met at Voluntary Action, Islington and during the day my mind wandered back to the first meeting we held there in December 2011 when all this was still an idea, work in progress and the outcomes a bit vague. What a long way we’ve come and what a lot has happened in the three years. Congratulations to Kath, Marie , Anne Smith, Kim and Tracy and may the growth continue and the development of the Programme help and support many more older people affected by cancer.


The following quote sums up this blog and what we have to look forward to in 2015:



Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to Everyone!



Kath Curley

Staffordshire and Wolverhampton Cancer Advocacy and Support Project Lead


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