24 March 2016
The Gynae team: L-R Julie Winning, Catherine Spencer, Yvonne Doyle and Jeanette Bradley
March marks Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women, with about 2% of women in the UK (1 in 50) developing ovarian cancer during their lifetime.
Julie Winning, Yvonne Doyle, Jeanette Bradley and Catherine Spencer are Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialists in cancers of the female reproductive system – or gynaecological oncology – at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust. They provide information, advice and support to women being investigated for, or diagnosed with, a gynaecological cancer.
The team is based within City Hospital, Birmingham, a specialist centre for surgeries of advanced ovarian cancer. It is also a centre of excellence for clinical trials, with a particular emphasis on new cancer drug treatments.
In addition to her role as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, Catherine also works as the Team Lead for Survivorship, which means she provides care for women living with and beyond cancer. Some of the things she has done as part of this role include setting up health and well-being events for women who have recently finished treatment, and introducing a holistic needs assessment, which ensures that people’s physical, practical, emotional, spiritual and social needs are met in a timely and appropriate way.
Catherine said: ‘Working with women is a privilege. They let you into their lives at a stressful, emotional and sometimes desperate time. Building relationships of safety and trust to support them across their care pathway is very rewarding. We try to offer them some certainties and structure when life seems chaotic. Recently I met with a patient who, six months ago, was completely overwhelmed by her diagnosis and the multiple changes to her body and future expectations. This week she came to her appointment smiling and in control. She says the support she’s had has been instrumental to feeling like “nothing can break me now, onward and upward.”’
Catherine added: ‘Every day somebody says thank you to me so I know it makes a difference to someone that I came to work today.’
Outside of work, Catherine also takes an active role in fundraising for Macmillan and celebrating its supporters.
‘Every year my children’s school holds a Macmillan Coffee Morning in memory of a member of staff. I bake a cake and give an update on how donations to Macmillan are being spent in our local area. Also, the Great Birmingham Run route goes right past our house so each year my family host a “cheer station” and we shout our loudest for all those running to fundraise for Macmillan.’
If a woman experiences any of these symptoms most days for three weeks or more, they are advised to see their doctor:
- Feeling bloated (a swollen tummy)
- Feeling full quickly or not wanting to eat much
- Pain in lower tummy or back
- Needing to pee more often or more urgently than normal
No one should face cancer alone. For support, information or if you just want a chat, call Macmillan free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk