Beatson Cancer Charity secured funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to continue offering and to expand the Fear of Recurrence group programme as well as to establish a new group programme called Living with Uncertainty. This 3-year grant started in January 2021, at a time when restrictions due to the pandemic were affecting all. This funding has allowed us to continue providing support to those who have completed treatment for cancer as well as those living with cancer. The groups have provided a safe space for those affected by cancer to connect with one another via Zoom while receiving psychological support to explore tools and techniques to help them live a life that is meaningful to them.
Many of us have felt feelings of isolation and reduced connection during the pandemic. For those affected by cancer, this has had a major impact with many shielding for long periods of time, in-patient visiting hours being reduced to keep patients safe and many appointments being delivered via telephone/video call or the need to attend alone to receive news of recent scans. Participants of the group programmes often express the relief to be able to discuss their thoughts and feelings with others in a similar position, and often for the first time for those who have been diagnosed during the pandemic.
Some participants who have recently completed the Living with Uncertainty group programme shared insights into what the groups felt like for them.
Mairi told us; “After I had signed up for the group, I was apprehensive and wondered if I had done the right thing. However, on the first meeting there was an instant connection between us all as we all had a cancer. And even though it was all different, we had all the same fears and uncertainties. When I came off zoom each time my husband commented on how relaxed/less anxious I was.”
Leanna also shared similar thoughts; “At the beginning it was scary, and I felt nervous but in a strange way it felt safe as I could hide behind a screen. Also, I didn’t have the stress of travelling to the meeting or the worry of what to wear and I could still join if not feeling 100%. I also felt it was easier to open up about feelings as it was not face to face, it felt easier through a screen. By the 2nd meeting I already felt like I knew all the group because deep down I felt we all had a lot in common and we were all looking for the same answers.”
While many of us have become familiar with Zoom and other video calling applications over the last few years to keep in touch with loved ones and perhaps join a quiz or two, reaching out for psychological support and meeting a group of strangers for the first time may feel quite intimidating. Lucy shared how she felt about it prior to joining the group; “It felt very odd on two counts. I’d never zoomed before, and I really hated the idea! And I’m rubbish with tech, but in this event, that was actually made very easy for us.”
This World Cancer Day, the theme is #closethecaregap. For many charities and organisations, the pandemic brought with it a need to adapt quickly to continue to meet the needs of people affected by cancer. While living in a world that felt as thought it was pushing us all apart, many people struggled with the very difficult, and sometimes completely overbearing, thoughts and feelings that come after a cancer diagnosis. Leanna told us “I felt very alone and that nobody around me really understood the feelings that were choking me such as the fear of dying, feelings of pain about leaving family, the not knowing how long or what it would be like to die and coming to terms with not being able to return to work and life changing forever.”
The groups bring together people with a range of different cancer diagnoses and backgrounds who share as much as they feel comfortable with. Lucy told us how the groups helped her; “They helped me get things in perspective a bit. Maybe more of an acceptance. But also realising just how good it was to talk to people in the same situation who were not embarrassed by the topic, and who understand where you’re coming from, but who can talk about other things too. And have a laugh about it all. Many who haven’t had a diagnosis of cancer feel very awkward talking about it, so you don’t mention it either, it’s such a taboo topic.”
A range of different exercises are explored within the groups, delivered by a psychologist and facilitator, which participants can learn and take forward into their lives out with the groups when difficult thoughts and emotions arise. Mairi shared “I enjoyed the different exercises that we learned and have used them often in my normal day to day life.” And Leanna also echoed this in saying; “I have also taken away some great coping mechanisms that the group were taught throughout the course, and I use them on a daily basis in my everyday life to help overcome any dark thoughts or low moods.”
We will continue to support those affected by cancer through our group programmes and hope to reach as many people as possible who need us. Please get in touch if you feel this support may be of benefit to you to chat with a member of the team. Here are some final thoughts from Mairi, Leanna & Lucy.
Mairi; “I would tell anybody to give the group a try as the facilitators make you very welcome and feel just like you are talking to your friends next door.”
Lucy; “Just have a go - you might hate it - that’s allowed! You don’t have to carry on with it. Or you might find it a really good experience, you just don’t know if you don’t try.”
Leanna; “Before joining the group I was sceptical and thought it was a load of old rubbish. Well, I would say now to anyone to just take a chance and I mean a proper chance as I was tempted after the 1st meeting to not bother continuing but I fought that urge and gave it another go and by the end of the 2nd meeting I felt part of a group of friends who a lot in common with myself and who understood how I felt. I would have missed out on so much had I not attended this group programme. I gained new friends and I gained really good coping skills to help live day to day.”
How to contact us.
To self-refer to this group programme or if you have any questions;
Call 0141 212 0505