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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Friendships forged through advocacy

In today’s post, Valerie McGregor advocate at delivery partner Knowsley Pensioners’ Advocacy Information Service (KPAIS) ponders the relationships we build whilst delivering advocacy support:

Having recently revisited some of the cases of older people affected by cancer who received support through advocacy, it became apparent that not only did we have a professional relationship as advocate and client whilst dealing with their issues, but also that during their journey we had become friends.


What I didn’t envisage was that through supporting them, I would get to know them so well. In so many cases I’ve learned about their lives from an early age, where they grew up and all about their families. I love to hear about and feel privileged to hear their stories, and how their cancer journey has affected them and their loved ones. 

Val McGregor

Valerie McGregor


I have found that as an advocate, and especially whilst dealing with older people affected by cancer, it becomes apparent that very often, the client will minimise their issue and I hear them say they they feel there is someone else more in need of this service.  The joy of this service is that we do have the time to spend in getting to know people, and giving them as much time as they need to identify the areas they would most benefit from some help. In this getting to know each other period, it really can begin to feel like chatting with old friends.


It’s always good to hear positive feedback about the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project and the service it provides, but it’s also good to know that having an advocate has been so helpful, that we are now regarded as friends.  It’s clear that being there to listen or to talk things through can make such a big difference.

So many of the people who have accessed this service have said that they feel they have a friend for life which I find so humbling that I have been able to make such a positive impact.

Valerie McGregor KPAIS

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Eura’s Story

My name is Eura and I am 76 years old.  I was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2014.

 To say the diagnosis was a shock is an understatement. 

 I telephoned Age Connects in relation to another issue and I was informed about the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project.

The thought of attending chemotherapy on my own was very scary, but Age Connects reassured me that this would not happen.

 I met the co-ordinator Angela who then introduced me to my Volunteer Advocate. 


The match was made in heaven as myself and the Advocate both love to travel and have visited many countries so have lots in common. 

We chat non stop while I attend chemotherapy, and this really takes my mind off what is happening…. 

 Age Connects have been so very supportive to me, I really feel in times of need I have someone to talk to and also to discuss things with – a listening ear!

 I am so pleased I made that call – I no longer feel I am facing this horrid disease on my own.


Laura from Age Connects Cardiff says:

Within 3 weeks of the initial phone call to Age Connects, Eura had met with Angela and then her Volunteer Advocate.

The Advocate has been able to support her with writing letters, get her benefits advice and has provided her with emotional support both at appointments and on the telephone. From the time the Volunteer Advocate was introduced in September Eura has received support over 20 times. Working together they are producing an action plan for the time and support needed for the New Year.

Laura Thomas, Age Connects Cardiff