Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

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Signposting to other local sources of support

We keep on top of new services and sources of support for people affected by cancer in Dorset because we recognise that people can benefit from many different types of help. Regional charity Wessex Cancer Trust  opened a support centre in Bournemouth last year which is open three days a week for people to drop in.

The centre manager, Emma Ormrod, recently visited us at Help and Care and met Advocacy Manager, Naomi Unwin, Macmillan Senior Advocates/Coordinators Jo Lee and Kathleen Gillett.  We discussed how our two services dovetail.  The drop in is ideal for people who are able to get out and about and would benefit from conversation with trained volunteers and other people affected by cancer on an adhoc basis.  Our service is ideal for those who find it more difficult to travel for whatever reason and offers regular support through an on going partnership with one trained volunteer. We can also give support at the person’s home and accompany them to medical appointments.

Naomi Unwin, Advocacy Manager, Help and Care; Emma Ormrod, Bournemouth Support Centre Manager, Jo Lee, Senior Advocate, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy

We’ve created an ‘at a glance’ document to help the volunteers at each service be aware of what the other service offers to facilitate signposting and referrals.   In fact our services already share a volunteer and advocates have visited the centre to accompany people who asked for support in going there for the first time. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership for the benefit of local people.

Kathleen Gillett, Macmillan Project Coordinator, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy (Help & Care)




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The Relate Macmillan Counselling Service is now available in the West Midlands

Macmillan Cancer Support has formed a partnership with Relate West Midlands to offer free relationship counselling to anyone affected by cancer. It’s a regional project for the West Midlands and is open to residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and South Staffordshire for 3 years (up to April 2019).  Here the coordinator tells us about the service:

I’m Eileen Clews and I’d like to introduce myself as the Coordinator of this new service. It’s a job I’m delighted to have because cancer can have a huge impact on families and friendships.

When we talk about relationships, it’s not just about your other half. It can also be about brothers, sisters, mums, dads, and carers. The people around us make a huge difference to how happy we are, and strong relationships can help us get through life’s tough challenges, like cancer. 

Eileen Clews

Eileen Clews

Some of the people who come to see us are single and don’t have a lot of family, we work with them on strengthening the support they do have around them.  Others are partners or relatives who find an hour a week to talk to a counsellor about their concerns very helpful. The majority of those we see are patients or ex-patients as we are there to help whether the diagnosis was recent or some years ago.

When you come to see a counsellor the first appointment is always a consultation. This is to find out a bit about the issues and ensure we are the right people to be seeing you at this time.  After this there are 7 further sessions available.

At the moment we are offering appointments at Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Solihull Relate offices but if we get enough demand there is the possibility of using our sites in Dudley and Oldbury.  Unfortunately, we can’t come and see people in their own home but we can offer Telephone Counselling if people can’t get to us.

While many of the referrals to the Relate Macmillan Counselling Service have come through the NHS, you can also refer yourself.  To do that or simply find out more about what we offer contact me on 0121 643 1638 or by email macmillan@relatebirmingham.co.uk

Very soon after I was in post, Sandwell Cancer Older People and Advocacy (SCOPA) came forward to tell me about what they do and recruit me onto their Steering Group! I am very happy to be part of this and am impressed with the work they are doing in Sandwell.  This is an area I have worked in before when I ran a project for The People’s Orchestra in West Brom (not a musical one, that would not have gone well). While the geographical area for this new counselling service covers most of the West Midlands, I am hoping that we will get some referrals from Sandwell and surrounding areas.

If you know of anyone who might benefit from some relationship counselling, who has been affected by cancer, please do tell them about the Relate Macmillan Counselling Service.

There are further details on our website


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It’s Carers Week

Whilst it’s still Volunteers Week it’s also Carers Week from 6th to 12th June. Kath Curley of programme partner Beth Johnson Foundation looks at at the statistics around the service the Staffordshire and Wolverhampton Cancer Advocacy and Support Project provides.

Since the start of the Project there have been 432 referrals into the advocacy and support service,  with 95 (22%)  being for carers. Of these 29 (30.5%) are male and 66 ( 69.5%) female – a ratio of   more than 2:1 of female to male. Currently there are 11 open cases for carers across Staffordshire and Wolverhampton.   Looking at the 84 closed cases throws up some interesting statistics.

The majority of referrals were “self-referrals”  – 36% followed by referrals from the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centres in Stoke, Stafford, Burton and Wolverhampton which were 22 around 23%. Referrals to the Advocacy Service for clients with cancer resulted in 8 referrals for their carers and friends and family of cancer patients led to a further 7 referrals. Macmillan nationally (helpline) have only referred 1 carer to the Project.


84 cases have been closed over the period of the Project of which 39 were closed as the “course of action was completed” which is 46%.  Unfortunately only 6 were closed because they felt empowered to act for themselves, make decisions or had regained control. One carer was too ill and there was no engagement with 9. Other reasons were moving out of area, no longer needing the service, bereavement and refusing the service.

Of the 95 cases, the majority live in North Staffordshire (including Stoke on Trent), this is not surprising as the Project was started as a pilot in this area back in 2012. Wolverhampton has only had 5 referrals but this was the last area to come on board as part of the Project in February 2015.


The project is for older people (50+) affected by cancer so if you are a carer of someone with a cancer diagnosis, live in Staffordshire or Wolverhampton and are struggling then please get in touch with us. A phone call to Beth Johnson Foundation on 01782 844036 is all you need to do.



Kath Curley, Project Manager


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I became a peer advocate because having had cancer, I felt that I could be of help to other people.

Deb McGarrity, delivery partner AgeUK Northumberland’s paid advocate, gives us an insight into what it’s been like delivering the older people’s cancer advocacy service in Northumberland recently. In what is Volunteers Week, Deb also introduces us to Marion, an older person affected by cancer, who has become a peer volunteer advocate:


Since the end of last year the Age UK Northumberland Macmillan Cancer Advocacy and Older People project has steadily been receiving referrals, there have been 24 cases since December 2015.

Without a volunteer coordinator it has been a challenge to keep our volunteers engaged and supported, this has partly been achieved through a good relationship with local Macmillan who opened up their volunteer training schedule to our volunteers. Our volunteers have taken advantage of the Macmillan training by participating in training in Bereavement and Loss, Specialist Palliative Care, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Prostate Cancer.


Volunteers have also accompanied the paid advocate on visits and are slowly beginning to have their own cases. One volunteer, Marion Young has started working with a client who recently was given a terminal diagnosis. When I asked  how she feels about being part of the project, Marion responded by saying:

I became a peer advocate because having had cancer, I felt that I could be of help to other people. I am looking after my first client who has been given a terminal diagnosis. With the guidance of Deborah and the client’s permission I have written letters to the GP and Macmillan to support her with her request to be able to move nearer to her daughter. I am going with her to the hospice. I am meeting with her beforehand to note any questions that she has, giving her empowerment that enables her to understand what will happen.


Marion Young

From my own point of view it has been great being able to include the volunteers in client case work. Not only are we utilising their experience to help our clients but I too am learning from them which is extending my expertise and informing my practice. I can see too that the clients also really appreciate having someone to support them who has also been affected by cancer.

Deborah McGarrity, AgeUK Northuberland

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Networking with our local Macmillan Information Manager

In this post Helen Vernon, advocate at SPAC (Sefton Pensioners Advocacy Centre) talks about local networking and partnership working with Macmillan Cancer Support:

I recently spent time with the Information Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support based in Aintree Hospital, which has been based there for about four years.  There were a number of useful points that arose from our discussion and I hope it will result in an increase in referrals from this source.


The Information Manager and the Information Officer have both worked within the hospital in other roles for many years.  As a result they know a large number of the professionals and have made fantastic inroads with regard to promoting their service.  This is particularly true in the case of the Cancer Nurse Specialists (CNS).  It therefore occurred to me that our time would be best spent promoting our service to other professionals in the hospital.  Clearly the CNS were referring regularly to the Macmillan Centre who will in turn refer cases to the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project as and when appropriate.

We discussed one of the cases that they were involved in and we reflected upon how they intended to proceed.  They acknowledged that there was a role for advocacy in this case and although on this occasion they had completed the work, we could have provided an outreach element that they were unable to.  The gentleman in question was aged 52 so I was able to reiterate that we are able to work with people aged over 50. mac image

Helen Vernon

Helen Vernon

During the visit I was given information about a number of projects that I was not aware of, for example a clothing bank run by Macmillan that provides ten items of clothing for people who had experienced weight loss or gain.  This is such a useful resource and I am sure I will be referring to them in the future.

The Information Centre in the north of our borough sits outside of the hospital and so potentially the referral stream from CNS to Macmillan is different.  Therefore we will continue to speak with the CNS in this area.

Helen Vernon, SPAC

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Our first six months…

Deborah McGarrity, Age UK Northumberland’s advocate tells us about a busy first six months in their new Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project:

Age UK Northumberland has just passed the 6 month milestone; we joined the programme in April this year. As a team we have been actively promoting the project and the excellent service it provides for people affected by cancer. Here are a few of our highlights:

Just last month we joined Macmillan on Beryl the Macmillan bus when she came to Newcastle and Cramlington. This was an excellent opportunity to work with the Macmillan team and also to promote the project, over 300 people visited the bus when it was parked in Northumberland Street, Newcastle.

Beryl, the Macmillan Bus

Beryl, the Macmillan Bus

We have attended numerous ‘Winter Warmer’ events throughout Northumberland, spoken to staff in oncology day units, social services, CAB, U3A, at a GP Conference, Nurse Forums, Carers Northumberland, care homes, hospices, cancer support groups, had a full page article in the local press,  the list goes on. We have recruited and trained some fantastic volunteers.


Slowly the service is beginning to get known throughout the vast county that is Northumberland and we are trying to be creative in how we promote the service, it can be hard and referrals are slow, but the value of the project keeps us going and enthusiastic! At the moment we are trying to arrange an official ‘launch’ so watch this space..

Deborah McGarrity, Age UK Northumberland

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No one should face cancer alone: new TV ad

Have you seen the new Macmillan Cancer Support TV ad?

M_mid_RGB The message is: No-one should face cancer alone so if you need support of any kind and are not sure where to start or need someone to talk to give Macmillan Cancer Support a call on 0808 808 00 00 Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm or visit macmillan.org.uk.

Macmillan’s helpline makes referrals to our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy service. If someone contacts the helpline and needs advocacy support in an area we currently provide a service in they can be directed to us. Once we’ve had the referral we can provide a volunteer advocate to support you; someone like Yvonne,

Yvonne has a lot of experience of cancer, way too much really. She has lost her husband, mother and brother in law to the disease. That’s why, when she saw a press release about the cancer advocacy service, she felt she had to get involved. She has been involved in the service since it first started and was one of the first volunteers recruited. She hoped to be able to draw on her experience of cancer to inform the support she has been able to offer others in similar situations.

Yvonne isn’t what you’d call a typical volunteer because she doesn’t have a lot of spare time on her hands. She’s in her 50’s, works full time as the deputy head of a school for children with learning disabilities and in some of what little spare time she has she already volunteers at her local hospice. So, Yvonne’s role as a volunteer advocate for older people affected by cancer takes place mostly in the evenings, weekends and during school holidays.

There has been a lot of training. Cancer is a complex and emotional subject and advocacy itself takes a bit of understanding and getting used to. But, as a result of the training she’s done Yvonne feels she has greatly increased her ability to provide support to an older person affected by cancer. She understands that her role is to support and not advise. She really enjoys working with older people and is clear that she’s there to empower the older person to speak for themselves.

Take Mavis for example. Yvonne is Mavis’s advocate. Mavis is 92, lives alone and has blood cancer. Yvonne visits her regularly at weekends to see how she’s doing. Sometimes Mavis doesn’t cope very well, she forgets to take her medication and sometimes forgets to eat. Yvonne provides supports by developing coping strategies for her. Mavis has toyed with the idea of moving into residential care and while she’s keen to remain at home she knows that Yvonne is there to support her whatever she decides.

Yvonne also acts as Sandra’s advocate. Sandra is 77, lives alone and has no family. She has been diagnosed with breast cancer and had an operation in April 2013 followed by radiotherapy. Unfortunately Sandra lost a very close friend at the same time. All of this has left Sandra feeling isolated and unsupported. Yvonne took her to a local cancer support meeting and to the local breast cancer support meeting. Both are held in the evening so Yvonne was able to take her a couple of times until she was used to and felt comfortable there. Yvonne was also able to refer Sandra to a local befriending service to help with her isolation.

Acting as a volunteer cancer advocate has really struck a chord with Yvonne. She’s now looking at opportunities to change career and move into professional advocacy because what she’s been doing makes a real difference to older people’s lives and gives her real satisfaction.