Tucked away at the back of a charity shop is a centre helping people with cancer deal with their diagnosis.
The Wessex Cancer Trust provides group sessions, therapies and befriending services for people affected by the illness and their families.
Its Cosham centre, in Portsmouth, is one of six in the Wessex region and is a haven for people coming to terms with their treatment and what their future holds.
Clients can refer themselves or are often referred by GPs and
the hospital, and can
attend as much or as little
as they want.
Tina Randall, manager of the centre on High Street at the back of the Wessex Cancer Trust charity shop, says it is important they can cater to people’s needs and that people know they are there to help.
‘We have been here for the past three years and this centre supports people of Portsmouth and surrounding areas who have had a cancer diagnosis or are affected by cancer,’ she says.
‘We offer free clinics, complimentary therapies and support groups.
‘The first thing we offer for people is 12 sessions with a counsellor or therapist and then after that they can go on to use the groups. One of the groups is made up of a few clients who get together to offer each other peer support.
'We have complimentary therapies too so aroma therapy, massage, reflexology, facials and a few others including reiki.’
Tina says the Wessex Cancer Trust centre is about providing a holistic approach for people with cancer and dealing with the mental side affects of a diagnosis.
For many, it is this they need help with once their treatment has come to an end.
Tina adds: ‘The hospital meets the clinical needs but we meet the mental and wellbeing needs.
‘When people come to the centre, it is key for us they go away feeling better than when they came in.
‘Quite often, clients are people who have finished treatment and they don’t have as many appointments.
‘They have got more time on their hands to think and reflect on what they have been through and that’s when fears of relapse start.’
The centre acknowledges that not everyone with cancer wants to share their concerns with loved ones who have worries of their own.
To ensure they still have someone to talk to, volunteers at the centre offer a befriending service. They meet and greet the clients and are there to listen over a cup of tea.
They also find out information that could help or talk about other subjects to help take their minds off their condition.
Tina says: ‘The fact they have someone to speak to through that befriending service is really important.
‘Some people who want to come here want to forget what’s going on and have some time to themselves.
‘Having cancer can be isolating. The befriending service and this centre can take that away. People may stop working or have limited access to friends or their hobbies because they are not well enough.
‘To come here helps a little to give that connection back to people.’
The centre is for people of all ages and with all types of cancer. Its client numbers have grown over the years, mainly due to word of mouth.
But Tina wants more people to know they are there to offer support.
‘It has taken a while for people to know we are here,’ she adds.
‘We are at the back of the charity shop and not many people realise. We have around 90 clients per month and that has increased by a third in the past two years – that is client referral and word of mouth.
‘We also get people in who are supporting someone with a cancer diagnosis so there is a whole range.
‘We have some people who just come in for a group session once a month but then we have others who come in for a lot more, it is what suits them.’
With the centre established in the area, Tina said they are looking to expand their services and offer more for people like nutrition advice.
They like to listen to what their clients want and create the services they need.
One of those was a mens-only group session once a month. The Wessex Cancer Trust centre found men felt more comfortable talking with other men and so created the group to make them feel at ease.
Tim Branson is the facilitator for the men’s group. He says: ‘Men find it difficult to talk so it is a really great thing the centre have permitted this.
‘We don’t dictate what should be spoken about but we let the sessions flow and make it a relaxed place for men to open up and talk about their cancer experiences.
‘There is great value in letting the group run itself but having someone like myself who can bring it back on topic if need be.
‘We have people who have been affected themselves or lost someone due to cancer.
‘They can share their experiences in a way that feels comfortable to them.’
For more information on the Cosham centre, visit them or go online to wessexcancer.org.uk/cosham.
IT HAS been nearly a year since Matt Blake was given the unexpected news that he had Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The 44-year-old went to the doctor with a suspected chest infection only to be told it was more serious and treatment would have to start promptly.
The father-of-five, from Havant, seeked support from the Wessex Cancer Trust centre to help cope with what his diagnosis meant.
Matt says: ‘My sister-in-law did some work for the centre a couple of years ago so I knew about them before I got cancer.
‘Pretty much straight away I started coming here and seeing what they could do to help.
‘I came along with my wife Vicky and we used it mostly to understand what’s going on in our own minds and being able to talk to people who have been through treatment.
‘I wanted to meet people who had been diagnosed with a similar cancer and had come through the other end.’
Matt and Vicky used the complimentary therapies like the reiki at the Cosham centre and the one-to-one sessions to deal with their concerns and worries.
They also spent time just sitting together with a befriender volunteer and talking about Matt’s condition.
Matt adds: ‘The centre gave me the chance to switch off and forget everything that was going on.
‘The fact Vicky could also benefit and use the services was a massive boost for her too because she was going through a stressful time too.’
Matt was given the all-clear in May after months of chemotherapy but still attends the centre for on-going support.
WHEN looking for a support group following his cancer diagnosis, Eddie Flynn found the Wessex Cancer Trust’s mens-only group the best one for him.
He started treatment for prostate cancer in 2016 after being diagnosed the year before.
The 67-year-old went to the centre and said he was surprised at how much they could offer.
Eddie has since joined the men’s group after it launched this year.
He says: ‘Coming to the centre and just talking to people really helped me and my wife Christine.
‘Having the mens-only group was important for me because you get that camaraderie and it is not embarrassing at all.
‘There is no agenda in place and you can share as much or as little as you want. I find it easier to open up so it is really good.’
Eddie is also having counselling sessions at the centre in Cosham while Christine has enjoyed massages and reiki therapy.
‘It is nice there is something for us both,’ he adds.
‘It is a real pleasure and has helped with the whole process.’