When I was diagnosed with cancer there wasn’t an information and support centre like this in the hospital. My Macmillan nurse, Pat, was fantastic and really supported me, but any extra information had to come from the internet, or you just couldn’t get hold of it. And the nurses are so busy that sometimes you don’t want to worry them with what might seem to be trivial queries.
I do a little bit of everything here at the centre. Meeting and greeting people who come in, directing them to the right source of information or signposting them in the right direction for support if I can.
I also do a lot of application forms for people, either for Macmillan grants or for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The PIP forms are horrendous and it’s just one less thing for people to worry about.
At the moment, probably about 25 percent of the people we see are looking for advice and help with financial issues, such as getting the benefits to which they are entitled. The biggest thing for us is to take those worries away from the person affected by cancer. If we can stop them worrying about these things, they can concentrate on themselves and their families, and getting better.
Once someone finds out that I’ve been through my own cancer journey and they see me standing, breathing, in front of them, I think they do have that glimmer of hope.
The best thing for me is giving other people with cancer something that I didn’t have. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from being able to do something to help people, doing something positive in a negative situation. It has also really helped me to get my confidence back after my own treatment.
Before I was diagnosed with cancer I was running an Italian restaurant in Burton upon Trent, but I was forced to give this up because of my treatment and its side effects. I lost my income – I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know where the money was going to come from to buy things for basic living. But with the help of Pat and a Macmillan grant, some of that worry was taken away.
When you’ve been diagnosed with cancer you need as much help and support, even though you may not know it at the time. If you want to come and cry, if you want to just give someone an ear-bashing, if you know you just want to talk and let things out, we can do that. That’s what Macmillan information and support centres are for.