Volunteers angry after Wessex Cancer Trust closed Cosham support centre start Cosham Cancer Companions group

CANCER support volunteers and workers have started their own help group after they were left distraught when a charity centre closed without warning.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 11:47 am
From left, Michael Weyl, Sam Dowley, Janette Rowe, Charlie Parker-Quaife, Maria Murray with her daughter Evelyn, one, talk to The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth David Fuller and Leza Tremorin about the new group. Picture: Sarah Standing (210120-5608)

Staff and befrienders at the Wessex Cancer Trust centre were angry after the trust told them in November via email that the facility in Cosham's High Street would shut its doors.

With concern over where sufferers and family members would go for support in Portsmouth, a group of volunteers have now started Cosham Cancer Companions and hope to offer a place for people to have a chat and, in future, enjoy a variety of relaxing therapies.

Maria Murray, Julie Saunders, Janette Rowe and Sam Dowley organised the new support group, which will meet weekly at Cosham Library.

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From back left, Charlie Parker-Quaife, therapist, The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth, David Fuller and Leza Tremorin, Sam Dowley, companion and Michael Weyl, companion with, from front left, Maria Murray, therapist, her daughter Evelyn, one, client Helen Potter, Julie Saunders, companion, Janette Rowe, companion and Carol Brett, companion. Picture: Sarah Standing (210120-5627)

Julie said: ‘I used the centre when I had breast cancer back in 2013 and I wanted to give something back by volunteering.

‘We were all very upset when we were told it was closing but we wanted to make sure there was ongoing support for the people that need it.’

Maria had a paid position at the previous centre offering massages and treatments and is determined to carry on using her skills in the new group.

The mum-of-one from Fareham said: ‘It was devastating when we were told and it was at very short notice. Luckily I managed to get hours elsewhere but it was difficult.

‘Most importantly we wanted to start this group so people still had somewhere to go and the library offered us this space for free which is amazing.’

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Just 12 days after the closure of the Cosham centre was announced, bosses at the Wessex Cancer Trust decided to launch an emergency appeal to raise £600,000 to save the charity and its other centres across the south coast.

Janette, a previous Wessex befriender, said: ‘We did not appreciate the way everything was handled by Wessex and they only told our manager a few days before us which put her in an awkward position.

‘They said people could still go to Macmillan in Queen Alexandra or to the choir but the last thing people who have just been diagnosed with cancer want is to sing or to be in hospital again.

‘This support group is a chance for them to chat to us and each other in a nice space.’

Charlie Parker-Quaife, who offers discounted reiki and reflexology treatments for clients, added: ‘We were hacked off when we heard what had happened and Portsmouth is a very populated area so it has affected a lot of people.’

Judith Condley from Cosham used the centre, which closed before the new year, when she was going through breast and bowel cancer three years ago.

The 63-year-old said: ‘It was devastating to hear that it was closing, not just for me, but the people who have just been diagnosed and really need that support.

‘I think the Cosham Cancer Companions is a great idea and will really help.’

Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor David Fuller opened the group on Tuesday.

Chief executive Cait Allen previously apologised if the trust came across 'as being insensitive' and said the crisis appeal was launched after a decision to consolidate its services was made.

The group will meet on Mondays between 10am and 1pm and Tuesdays from 12.30pm until 3pm.