A volunteer who lost her husband to cancer is helping to lead an innovative new programme to offer support and guidance for those who care, or have cared, for someone with the disease.
While there is a wide range of both physical and emotional support for those patients directly affected by cancer, it is sometimes the carers and loved ones of those patients who carry an equally heavy burden. It is hoped that the Macmillan Cancer Carer Buddy service, which was launched this month with its first volunteer, will provide both practical and emotional support from someone who has experienced a similar journey as a loved one or carer.
Sam Wilkinson, from Blackpool, volunteered after losing her husband Geoff to cancer two years ago at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, and though she is mindful of making the journey to a place of some of her most painful memories, she is keen to offer her experience to those that might need it.
Sam said: “I always felt, especially as a partner, that I always took a backseat. I used to feel guilty if I felt tired, felt guilty if I was struggling. Anytime we met someone, it was always, quite rightly about Geoff, I was always in the background
“I just thought there must be others, especially husbands or wives, who love their partner dearly but are struggling and would just like to have someone to just offload to or just listen to them.”
Helen Bright Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Manager said: “Carers can often feel that they shouldn’t ask for support when it comes to cancer, because they are not going through it.
“Actually loved ones and carers are impacted in a way that sometimes the patient isn’t even able to acknowledge or understand what they are going through.
“There’s a tendency for carers not to disclose that they are worrying, because very often they don’t want to add to the worries which are already existing with the patient.
“So the potential for a Cancer Care Buddy is an inspirational idea. We have cancer buddies for patients, shared experiences between patients, but we had no carer-to-carer support, and this service will provide guidance where needed.”
Sam has already begun her role with the Macmillan Cancer Carer Buddy service offering practical and emotional support to those affected. The push is now for others to come forward and use their experiences to help others through the sometimes difficult journeys ahead.
“I’ve sometimes asked myself ‘Why am I back here, the scene of all my sadness?’” Sam continued.
“But I’ve sort of carried on and thank goodness I did. It’s good to know that people understand, that as a loved one or a carer, they know that they are being listened to and understood.
“It is so important that the carers and loved ones feel appreciated. I made them feel that they were seen.”
The Trust’s volunteering team are now looking to recruit more Macmillan Cancer Care Buddies. If you feel that you want to share your experiences and help support others with their practical and emotional needs please contact Nicola Ellis on 01253 955710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.