Wednesday 3rd April 2013
A local knitting group is providing support and friendship for people affected by cancer.
When I first came into post, I was told by someone affected by cancer that once the support and intensity of regular treatments go, life is a challenge but in a very different way. This theme kept recurring, so I looked at local support and activity groups and came up with the idea of a knitting group.
One of the Monmouthshire libraries in Caldicot had a small community room and a Macmillan information area. The Manager and Community Librarian for Older People, Fiona Ashley, was keen to develop the library as a community hub, not only for books and information, but also for health information and fun activities, so it provided a suitable venue.
At the first session, Jan Quinton, Senior Library Assistant, and I sat back and waited, fully expecting no one to turn up. Fortunately though, 12 people attended and it quickly felt like everyone had known each other for years.
Each time a new person joins, I explain that the group is run in partnership with Macmillan and Monmouthshire Libraries, and also part of a bigger project in local authority libraries across South East Wales that aims to provide accessible information and support for people in a friendly local setting. I ask people to take a leaflet to places they are visiting and spread the word. This helps them to understand how the group supports people affected by cancer and gets the Macmillan message out to the community.
Since the group started we have knitted chicks and snowmen to raise funds for the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, and hats for the ‘Hats for heroes’ appeal. The 2012 highlight was a knitted, fully decorated Christmas tree. The group wanted to highlight the fact that Christmas can be a difficult time for people affected by cancer. The tree was on display throughout December, and I held small fundraising and information events during this time.
For some, the group is ‘a lifeline’ while others just enjoy coming. Many of them have been affected by cancer in some way. The youngest member of the group is just 10, and the most senior a sprightly 98.
The group has also made squares that are being turned into blankets for people feeling the cold during cancer treatment. This idea has also been embraced by library staff and several library users. The blankets are available from the chemotherapy clinic at Nevill Hall hospital in Abergavenny, for anyone undergoing treatment who would like one.
Erica Sheppard, Macmillan Support and Information Coordinator,Macmillan in Monmouthshire Cancer Support & Information Service.