18 February 2016
Becky Britton is the Macmillan Physical Activity Advisor at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
As the beginning of February marked World Cancer Day, a growing body of evidence is showing that physical activity helps not only to manage the often devastating consequences of cancer treatment such as fatigue, depression and heart damage, but also helps to reduce the risk of the disease worsening, recurring or causing death.
Research shows, for example, that breast cancer patients’ risk of recurrence and of dying from the disease can be reduced by up to 40% by doing recommended levels of physical activity.
So when you’re living with or after cancer, physical activity can help you make a positive change to your life. Cancer and its treatments can cause physical changes, and dealing with these is often stressful. Being more physically active can help you cope with and recover from some of these changes.
That’s why the Feel Good Move More project run in partnership with Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust has a dedicated Macmillan Physical Activity Advisor to help people affected by cancer in the area to become more active in a safe way.
Becky Britton is the Macmillan Physical Activity Advisor with the project: ‘It’s my job to provide tailor-made, safe and enjoyable physical activity sessions and advise people living with and beyond cancer about physical activity.
‘I work with clinical nurse specialists, support groups and clinical teams at the Trust to help make physical activity part of the cancer pathway and raise awareness of the importance of being active with cancer.
‘Last November we won the Trust’s Integration Award for making a significant contribution to integrating hospital and community services and enabling care closer to home. This means that The Feel Good Move More project works really closely with the hospital cancer services and the community. So it’s a real bonus that people living with cancer can refer themselves to the project: that way there’s no need for a referral from a health professional. And since I can meet patients at different venues such as health centres across the borough, care and support is available closer to home.
‘One of the project’s new initiatives is the health walks, which are run with Walsall Council Sport and Leisure Services. The aim is to get a group of people walking for a maximum of half an hour. The group is a mixture of people living with and beyond cancer from support groups such as the black and minority ethnic support group, the lymphoedema support group, and breast cancer patients. The walks are really beneficial for people living with cancer and beyond cancer along with their friends and families, both physically and psychologically.
'We also deliver gentle exercise sessions designed to introduce and support people to take part in safe and effective physical activity in order to maintain and improve their health.
‘The best part of my job is having a positive impact on people’s lives, seeing people genuinely appreciating and enjoying the sessions that we provide. It’s not just about the physical activity sessions though, sometimes it can just be a conversation that you have had with someone that you can tell (or hope!) will make a difference.
‘I’ve been working as a physical activity advisor for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust for nearly eight years so I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity to work with Macmillan. I know the positive difference that physical activity can make to people’s lives.
No one should face cancer alone. For support, information, or just a chat, call 0808 808 0000 Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm. To access the Feel Good Move More project in Walsall please call the Lifestyle Link on 01922 44 40 44.