This week has involved a great variety of work, and I have had a lot of communication around one subject, cancer support. I have spent many hours on social media, and have attended several meetings, either in a clinical setting or a social environment, talking to people who are involved in providing it. I also include myself in that, as support provided via the social media platforms is proving to be so important, the way we are now living our lives.
As my internet work increases, I find more and more people around the world, doing such wonderful things, all working under the umbrella of cancer support. It feels like an army! However, when I talk to patients, which I do frequently, either in my work, or when I am being treated myself, I can’t help sensing that people are still not aware of what is available to them, or can’t find what they are looking for, which I find very frustrating.
Only yesterday, a friend casually remarked, how wherever he went, he bumped into a cancer charity advertisement. It was a flip comment, but I understood what he meant. It is very difficult to avoid coming into contact with something cancer related, usually a collecting box! But in many respects, that is a good thing isn’t it? We are making people aware of cancer, and now people feel more comfortable talking about it than they did, years ago.
So if there is so much more awareness of cancer and it’s issues, how is it that people are still struggling to find the support they require? Is it because the type of support they require, just doesn’t exist? I may be entirely wrong on this, so this is why I ask the question in this blog.
I have been to several presentations recently, where there have been many patients, in attendance. Most formats have been similar, with charities in the reception areas, showing information booklets etc,and selling Christmas cards. The people doing that were all enthusiastic, but it felt like a market place, where people were competing for customers. At no stage did I ever feel that the staff had a genuine understanding of what their audience was experiencing.
Given the fact that all the hard work done in the past has a got us to a stage where we almost have an information overload, it is not now what they seek. With information, the patient can make informed decisions, so we are definitely getting to a good place as far as that side of things is concerned. Also in the longer term I’m sure there are improved outcomes too, because of information.
The major difficulty, in providing cancer support, is that we all need different things at different times. From my own experience, and that of many of my fellow patients, our medical needs are mostly met, within our hospital. It’s once outside that environment, where things change.
The more practical issues of life, have to be faced, and unfortunately, a handful of booklets, just doesn’t really cut it. Sure, there has been a lot of research going into the information provided, but it doesn’t end there. For many, that’s where the real issues begin. Where do you turn? There is advice out there, but in many instances it is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
My opinion is that we need to be much more proactive in the way we provide support. We need to treat patients as people, and not just as a number to be targeted with mail shots and marketing. There needs to be a support coordinator for people, once they leave the perceived ‘safety’ of the hospital. You can easily become institutionalised and may need help adjusting to every day life, and signposting to local support that might be helpful for you.
From a society perspective, it is important that we do what we can to help people affected by any long term conditions, to be aided back to as useful a life as they can create. Giving something back, and feeling useful again. Hopefully, to be able to work, provide for their families and get a feeling of well being again.
Unfortunately in a clinical setting, I don’t really see professionals talking about these issues. Our treatment is generally good, and we have come to rely on the system to help us, but on these issues it doesn’t. We need to be much more open about this, and not be content to hand people branded books, and think that the job is done. Sure, time is an issue, but I really feel that much more personal contact is required, to improve things.
Maybe you disagree with my opinions and ideas. Hopefully you have found all the support that you required. If so, what worked well for you, and you would be happy to share? If not, what do you feel is missing ,and how could it be provided? Please feel free to leave a comment or tweet me @christheeagle1
I am an official support partner of the Grove Hotel in Bournemouth. The only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions.