Tuesday 16th December 2014
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Winter 2014
Helen Cooke, a Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist in Lincolnshire, shares her thoughts about the role
The most rewarding part of the role is having that conversation with somebody and seeing the reaction when they realise help is available. In most cases people are in store for other reasons, but walking round carrying a heavy burden of worry. I am always on the alert for opportunities to help and so often it is the innocent question of ‘Hello, how are you today?’ that can lead to an opening exchange.
The biggest challenge is identifying the people who need information, as our role is not that well known to the general public. I always wear my Macmillan Boots badge and have my BMIP sign up on my pharmacy to promote my role. We have contact with so many people in a week. Many conversations happen which, while they may not lead to people accessing information immediately, can let people know it is available when needed.
Ways I can help
I supply details of the Macmillan Support Line, the location of local Information and Support services, and the many leaflets we keep in store. Most queries have related to understanding particular types of cancer, although financial support has also been important to carers. Breast cancer has been the cancer type I have been asked most about (particularly relating to fears of relapse) followed by bowel cancer.
My motivation relates to the many friends and family I have lost through cancer. My earliest memory is of visiting my grandfather in hospital and not understanding why he couldn't come home with us.
There are two people in particular who have influenced me. My friend Jenny died in her mid-thirties of breast cancer. She had four years remission after her first treatment and was a total inspiration during that time. My father-in-law was my other inspiration. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the pelvis and received the most amazing treatment at the Royal Orthopaedic hospital in Birmingham.
As soon as the Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist role was announced, I knew it was for me. I would say to other pharmacists that it is one of the most rewarding roles I have undertaken in 30 years as a Pharmacist. The training looks daunting but is designed in bite-sized chunks, so it can be fitted in during spare time. You do not need in-depth knowledge of every cancer type or treatment as our prime role is one of signposting. It is all about reaching those people who do not know that help is available to them.
There are now more than 1,900 Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists working in the UK to support people affected by cancer. During 2014, 163 new Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists have qualified.
Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist, Lincolnshire