Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

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Often patients have no-one or family are too closely involved and frightened themselves..

Many thanks to Sue from Knowsley Pensioners Advocacy Information Service (KPAIS) for today’s very personal account of a cancer diagnosis:

When I started work, as Administrator on our Cancer, Older People And Advocacy project in 2014, never did I imagine I could end as a possible service user!

In April last year, after a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  To say your world turns upside down is an understatement!  A lumpectomy and course of radiotherapy followed fairly quickly afterwards.



Immediately, after the diagnosis, I actually felt a sense of relief. During that interim period, your imagination plays havoc with you and you imagine all sorts of horrid possibilities.  But apart from them saying ‘we got it all wrong Sue’, the prognosis I received was most likely the best I could have hoped for. However, my partner was devastated – he’d lost his wife to breast cancer many years ago. But he came up trumps and became my ‘brick’ throughout my journey.


I had a supportive partner and family around me – someone to confide my fears in and to accompany me to the many hospital appointments but it made me realise the importance of the Cancer, Older People And Advocacy project, having someone there just for you, to speak up for you, sort things out for you, to talk to when you’re frightened, listen to what the professionals are saying.  Often patients have no-one or family are too closely involved and frightened themselves. An independent Advocate can make all the difference.



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“My whole cancer experience was being turned around”

Judith Pearson from Brighton & Hove Impetus describes her experience of becoming a Cancer Advocate:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and as my treatment was not too invasive I consider myself to be extremely lucky. Having said that, cancer has had a massive impact on my life; I have found that the emotional impact of the diagnosis continues. So much so, that earlier this year I was signed off work with anxiety and depression. I knew I had been struggling since my diagnosis but felt I just needed to ‘pull myself together’. I subsequently made the decision not to return to paid work for the time being.

impetus logo (50mm)

At the time of my diagnosis and treatment I had a strong sense of wanting there to be a reason for cancer barging into my life unannounced – I couldn’t really explain it better than that. When I saw the advert for volunteer cancer advocates I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do. I was signed off work at the time and I recall that as I was filling out the application form somehow my whole cancer experience was being turned around. It was almost like the flicking of a switch from negative to positive.

So far, I haven’t looked back.

Being accepted to do the training at Impetus was hugely exciting – meeting other people with their own cancer stories and talking about cancer in a much wider sense i.e. not just breast cancer was immensely interesting. I felt I was learning so much but also beginning to realise just how I could use my own knowledge, experience and skills in such a different way – to support others affected by cancer.

Judith Pearson

Judith Pearson

Being matched with my first client was exciting – I was keen to start. In preparation for my first meeting I did a bit of research on the internet – just some background information – and I found I was enjoying this new challenge in my life. Finding out and learning new things seemed especially compelling and I can feel that I am already looking forward to the prospect of working with more clients.

Cycling off to meet my client for the first time was a little daunting however my worry was short lived as he was a pleasure to talk to. We were able to discuss the information I had researched and he was delighted that I had already drafted a letter; I was getting things moving.

I am delighted to be involved with Impetus and cancer advocacy- not only am I helping others affected by cancer but they are also helping me.

Judith Pearson, Volunteer Advocate

To contact Macmillan Impetus Cancer Advocacy Service phone 01273 737888 or email canceradvocacy@bh-impetus.org

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