Since the official launch of Your simPal, our free service for people affected by cancer I have been truly shocked in a positive way! We did lots of research and a soft launch about six months ago, to help us understand where, and how the demand would come. That also helped us deal with some of the unforeseen issues. But once the website was launched and the posters starting going out, organisations were busy contacting us about how they could help their patients. One of the biggest challenges that I have seen since spending so much time in the cancer sector, is a general lack of collaboration with organisations outside of your own. My general rule has been, the larger they are, the worse the problem is!
We have designed the service to be as simple as possible, with no means testing and little red tape, to confuse either healthcare professionals helping patients apply, or just patients making an application for themselves. No contracts or gobbledy gook terms and conditions either. My own personal experiences have helped me remove any perceived obstacles, to make applying for the service so simple. My feeling was that I shouldn’t have to work hard to sell a ‘free service,’ also my days of chasing people for appointments are well and truly behind me!
But very quickly we were contacted by hospitals and organisations up and down the country, who invited us to share our information with them. I was delighted how quickly the professionals understood how much anxiety they could remove from their patients who were affected by isolation and ‘cancer poverty.’ We already have many great collaborations around the country with hospitals and charities and more visits to do in the next few weeks. I would like to think that by the end of the year we will be working with organisations in every area, supporting young and old with their cancer experiences.
A great personal delight for me is the warmth that has been shown to us by the professionals on the front line. Wherever we go I feel that genuine desire to help. Because our service is so different and new, it can take a little understanding, but now we receive calls from all over, wanting more leaflets and recommending patients to the service. It has been a great privilege to see how the wonderful nurses and volunteers help so many people every day, with kindness and compassion.
We attend many meetings and I can’t stop smiling when people ask if our service is real? How do we do it they want to know? It has always been my personal ambition to improve support for people affected by cancer and fill some of the huge gaps that still exist. Thanks to my partner Blair and her vision and persistence, we can now do that. We want to show people that things can be done efficiently and in a timely fashion, after all, those of us affected by cancer understand the true value of time!
My trips around the country, have helped me understand the unique challenges in each area. But the one constant, is the warmth that people receive when asking for help regarding cancer. On a visit to a large cancer hospital we witnessed a very confused lady searching for a hotel to stay in, because her daughter had been admitted for treatment. Within seconds the staff were reassuring her, and within half an hour a room had been found within the hospital complex. I had never seen anything like that, and this was just a regular day the ladies were telling me!
We talk daily to health professionals and many very frightened patients, explaining how lives have been changed at a stroke because of cancer. I still believe that the psychological impacts of a cancer diagnosis are still very much understated. If you add to that the economic uncertainty that people face regarding their professional future, you can understand why they can feel frightened. The work that I have done, for approximately 8 years now has concentrated on people living with cancer, as this is now more frequently the case, but even once the cancer is treated, the impact may continue for many years.
The improvement in understanding these issues in my time has been incredible, not that there isn’t still plenty to do though! Talking about cancer has become more a way of life than some secretive conversations in the corner. There is much more openness in society, which there must be, if we are to deal effectively with these issues. I have been very critical in a general way in what doesn’t get done for people affected by cancer, and also the time it takes to make change happen. However my faith has been restored by seeing the wonderful face to face service that is provided now.
There is certainly plenty of written information around, but there now seems to be less ‘fear’ in having an open conversation with patients and family. The work that goes on behind the scenes is incredible, to ensure staff have all the current information. Naturally the Internet plays a massive role in helping us all share, but I have been amazed at the calls I am getting and where people are finding our leaflets. This is such a wonderful example of really effective collaboration which I am constantly talking about.
As I mentioned before, there is still a long way to go, particularly from the bigger organisations, who should be leading, not following. But I am delighted with what I currently see and sincerely hope that we can continue this progress!
Have you any experiences of cancer support that you would like to share? Maybe you have been helped by our service? As always, please feel free to share your own views below.