Easing the burden for people facing the fight of their lives
Macmillan Cancer Support is a well-known cancer charity in the UK, helping improve the lives of people affected by cancer, but is also developing services across communities in Devon and Cornwall to support the 10,000 people diagnosed in the area every year.
Across the UK there are currently two million people living with cancer and this is set to rise to four million by 2030. People are living with the disease over a longer period, which therefore has long-term implications on various aspects of their lives.
Macmillan is a very hands-on organisation that talks to people affected by cancer and works with other organisations to develop new services.
Macmillan has funded more than 4,000 health and social care professionals in the UK, including nurses, GPs, dieticians, speech therapists and social workers. Some of the posts implemented in Devon and Cornwall include a speech and language therapist at Torbay Hospital, skin cancer nurse at Derriford Hospital Plymouth, palliative care nurse at Truro Royal Cornwall Hospital and family support social worker at North Devon Hospice.
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Macmillan invests in building cancer care centres that are built around the needs of an individual dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. The Mustard Tree Macmillan Centre at Derriford Hospital is a flagship example that offers a drop-in facility and access to a variety of services such as support groups, counselling, workshops, bereavement support, and welfare and benefits advice in a non-clinical environment.
In Devon and Cornwall many people affected by cancer may be rurally isolated and so Macmillan aims to counteract this by deploying the mobile unit to visit high streets, communities and events in Devon and Cornwall, bringing free specialist confidential advice to anyone that drops in.
Facing a diagnosis of cancer in the family is often a confusing and emotional challenge and so Macmillan provides a free telephone helpline – 0808 808 00 00 – where a team of experts are on hand to offer advice, answer any questions and simply listen if someone needs a chat.
Macmillan develops publications that can be ordered free of charge through its website, www.be.macmillan.org.uk, or by calling 0800 500 800.
There are hundreds of publications available ranging from Understanding breast cancer to The emotional affects of cancer and Talking to a child when an adult has cancer.
Behind the scenes, Macmillan professionals within the Peninsula Cancer Network work to improve cancer services across Devon and Cornwall. On a national level Macmillan uses its voice to influence and shape cancer services and push for better cancer care. One of the most successful campaigns changed the law in 2009 so that cancer patients are now entitled to free prescriptions.
Current campaigns include the fight to "Freeze out Fuel Poverty", drawn up because cancer patients were turning off their heating in the winter as they were worried about paying their energy bills. Often, when going through treatment for cancer, patients will feel the cold more.
Macmillan is fighting so that people with cancer who are terminally ill, having treatment or receiving certain benefits should receive a discount on their energy bills. The push is to extend the Winter Fuel Payment currently received by the over-60s to people with cancer who are in particular need and struggling with their energy bills.
To add your name to Macmillan campaigns, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/getinvolved/campaigns
During treatment, many people need time off work, which can have a huge impact on the household income. Macmillan has invested in teams of expert welfare and benefits advisers and also gives means-tested financial grants to help in these situations.
Macmillan provides Welfare and Benefits Advisors at the Mustard Tree Plymouth, Citizen's Advice Bureau covering North Devon, North Cornwall and Torridge and via the free helpline.
The Macmillan grants team sees applications for financial help not only from low- income households, but often from individuals who are self-employed and the diagnosis has dramatically reduced their ability to earn.
For many people, a diagnosis of cancer is the toughest fight they will ever face and Macmillan aims to support them, their family and carers.
For more information on the work of Macmillan, visit www.macmillan.org.uk.