‘I’m sorry, you have cancer’ – more than one in three of us will hear those words in our lifetime.
A cancer diagnosis is one of the toughest fights most of us will ever face, and for many older people, it’s a fight they may face alone.
Faced with having to take in complex information while making speedy decisions about treatment choices, the experience of accessing the services and information they really need can be a confusing and sometimes isolating experience for older people.
Even with support from family and friends, older people with a cancer diagnosis often don’t want to worry the people close to them with their concerns.
It’s an issue of particular concern here in Northumberland, where the population is more rural and isolated and we have a larger proportion of older people in the population than most of the rest of the country.
Treatment and support can sometimes be quite a distance away and rural transport links can be tricky.
Age UK Northumberland is preparing to deliver an innovative support project with Macmillan Cancer Support to provide a new service for older people affected by cancer.
The Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project will provide support through a new network of volunteer advocates, people who have experience of cancer or of caring for someone with cancer themselves, to help older people navigate their way through a maze of information about treatment and care, sources of support, and to get help with the day-to-day tasks that will maintain their quality of life.
Advocate coordinator Deb McGarrity knows all about the many benefits that advocacy can bring. When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life,” she said.
“Having someone on your side, to speak up for you, voice your concerns, and generally be there for you can help you feel more in control of your situation. Advocacy gives people a voice and a choice about what happens next.”
Do you have personal experience of cancer?
The project staff are looking for some very special volunteers to become advocates in Northumberland, starting in the north of the county, from Alnwick to Berwick.
If you, or someone you know, has personal experience of cancer and the skills to listen and support someone at a time when they most need to be heard, they’d love to hear from you. You’ll get all the training and support you need, travel expenses will be covered and it’ll be an incredibly rewarding way to spend between two and four hours a week.
The project is delivered by Age UK Northumberland and funded by Macmillan Cancer Support.
If you’d like to chat about becoming a volunteer or you or someone you know has a cancer diagnosis and would like information about the advocacy service, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01670 784800.