Supporting those living with cancer

“People think they should be happy, they should be on top of the world after beating cancer and going into remission. But the reality isn’t like that, and that’s often the point when people need us the most”, explained Hilary, Volunteer Program Lead at Cavendish Cancer Care. “When they are feeling guilty about the way they are feeling and worry about upsetting their friends and family, they can find an empathetic ear here to share their darkest thoughts, without judgement.”

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Cavendish Cancer Care are a charity based in Sheffield, dedicated to improving the quality of life for local people living with cancer. They were founded in 1991 and provide people facing cancer, and their families and carers with emotional and physical support through complementary therapies and counselling. People can self refer to the charity, simply by picking up the phone, and will be seen for their first appointment within 5 working days – no months of waiting to endure, the charity are there when you need them, whatever stage of your cancer journey you are on.

The service provided by Cavendish Cancer Care is completely free of charge to patients, and after assessment, a programme of therapy sessions is put together, focussing on relaxation and touch, emotional support or healing and energy therapies.

“People sometimes wrongly believe we are advocating alternatives to mainstream hospital care but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What Cavendish does is recommended in national cancer plans as something all patients should have access to. The term complementary says it all, we work to improve the quality of life for someone affected by cancer by providing relief from the emotional and physical problems they experience” said Jonny of the Fundraising team. “However some people can still be sceptical but interestingly some of the best feedback we get are from these people. Your average middle aged Sheffield bloke, whose wife has made him come here for some support as he won’t talk to her at home for example. We work with him to find what may work for him, and after a few sessions he’s a complete convert!”

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On my tour of the newly renovated building, the space felt calming, soothing and not at all clinical, despite retaining that edge because many people treated here are very poorly. There is a designated children’s room with toys and games, and 6 therapy rooms set up for various therapies. The reception team, some of them long standing volunteers, welcome guests with a friendly greeting, an offer of a cuppa and a biscuit, and an encouragement to sit and rest in the bright and comfy reception area. The team care for over 1500 people every year, providing over 5500 therapy sessions, and with just a small fund from the NHS, they rely heavily on local organisations and individuals to keep them running.

Volunteers are hugely important to the team at Cavendish, and their Cancer Buddies scheme is a big part of that. The buddies are a group of highly trained volunteers who have either had cancer themselves or cared for someone with cancer previously. They are best placed to support people as the buddy has been in a similar situation themselves, so the patient can talk freely and openly without guilt, or the worry of upsetting a friend or family member who has been supporting them, who may not be able to empathise with the patients’ current thoughts and concerns. Buddies can help support patients work through who they are post cancer diagnosis, and their shared experiences can help validate feelings that patients have been keeping hidden from those around them.

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Buddy support happens most often by phone, but some buddies and patients meet at a café to talk face to face, if the patient would prefer, and support usually happens once a week, for 3 to 6 months. Over 300 hours of support have been provided under the buddy scheme to date, which goes some way to showing how beneficial the support is to those who access it. One patient who was supported by a buddy commented, “the great thing about Cavendish Cancer Care is that they are totally non-judgemental, you know they are listening”.

Hilary explained that they are always on the look out for buddies to join their volunteer team, as demand is growing for this service. If you fit the bill, please contact Hilary at: h.nugent@cavcare.org.uk

Fundraising is also vitally important to Cavendish Cancer Care, and Jonny ran through a few events the charity has coming up; a summer ball in June, the Sheffield 10k in September (they need runners and volunteer marshals – see more here, and they are once again the chosen charity for Marks and Spencer on Fargate in the city centre, so they have bucket collections and bag packing scheduled in over the coming months. If you fancy volunteering at any of the events, as a one off bite sized chunk of micro-volunteering, or as a regular volunteer, please contact the team at hello@cavcare.org.uk

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The charity has close links with both universities in the city, with various societies and groups at the University of Sheffield running fundraising events for them, and the charity benefitting from student placements from Events Management students at Hallam, with a graduate of the course now working for the charity full time. It was great to see a local charity working so closely with the universities, recognising the positive impact that students bring to an organisation, and allowing the charity to reach out to people in the city, raise their profile, and hopefully help to support more people living with cancer.

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