Counsellors go the extra mile for people affected by cancer

on Tuesday, 30 January 2018. Tags Barrow, cancer, Cancer Support, CancerCare, Kendal, Lakes Centre, Lancaster, North Lancashire, Slynedales, South Lakeland

Therapies help people to cope

A team of highly dedicated counsellors are making a huge difference to people affected by cancer in North Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Nic Kerfoot (pictured, above), who has had counselling with CancerCare in Lancaster, sums up what the charity is all about for local people: “Without counselling from Cancercare I would not have been able to make sense of the effect cancer has on my life psychologically and emotionally.

“It gives you a safe place to express your feelings without judgement. For me, it has been a life saver.”

Counselling is one of the main services offered by CancerCare at the charity’s bases at Slynedales on Slyne Road in Lancaster, the Lakes Centre on Blackhall Road in Kendal and at the Furness Centre at Trinity Church Centre on Warwick Street in Barrow.

Now in its 35th year, CancerCare started offering counselling in recognition of the fact that there is a psychological impact to being diagnosed with cancer.

Alison Dixey, Head of Client Services for CancerCare, says: “I think we are very fortunate that we have this service at a time that can be one the most difficult in a person’s life.

“Our counsellors are amazing. They always go the extra mile for our clients.

“There is still a lot of fear associated with cancer. While treatment is improving and many more people are surviving cancer, there is still the fear factor.

“People often tell us that when they are diagnosed their first thought is ‘I’m going to die’ and they start making plans because it is so scary.

“I think this will change over the next 20 years as younger people will have seen their grandparents and parents being successfully treated.”

CancerCare offers free counselling to adults and children and has male and female counsellors. People diagnosed with cancer and their friends and family can access the counselling service.

Alison explains: “People come to see us for three main reasons.

“Some people come as soon as they are diagnosed and others come when they have been discharged from treatment.

“They may be finding it hard to cope after being discharged and don’t know what to do next.

“Others come for counselling at the point of bereavement.

“The service is for anyone affected by cancer or a life-limiting condition. We have an additional bereavement counselling service for children.”

Anyone wishing to access the counselling service can contact the Therapy Coordination Team.

CancerCare’s counsellors take a ‘person centred’ approach to their clients. The service offers the opportunity to talk freely about concerns to someone impartial and professional.

Alison says: “People often don’t want to worry their relatives and friends; they want to protect them.

“With our counsellors people can just get everything out. It’s easier in some instances to talk to someone you don’t know.”

Another crucial thing about the service is that people are seen as soon as possible. Alison and the team ensure there isn’t a waiting list and people are quickly allocated a therapist.

People are offered up to 20 counselling sessions with the therapy service. Some people need fewer sessions and it depends on the individual concerned. Therapy sessions are carried out at the client’s own pace and people choose what they want to share with the counsellor.

CancerCare has 14 counsellors all of whom are self-employed and are highly experienced in working with adults and children. People use the service for a huge variety of reasons.

Alison explains: “Some people might come for help with anxiety around their diagnosis.

“Some might have constant voices in their head about the cancer coming back. They can be worried that every ache and pain in their body is the cancer coming back.

“Others can be trying to come to terms with their diagnosis and a life that may be limited. For example, someone who has been quite sporty could find they are no longer able to work or exercise as they used to.

“A person can be coming to terms with a ‘different’ body as a result of surgery. Lots of people struggle to do things they could easily do before.

“When you’ve finished your treatment your friends and family can think everything is alright but there can be physical, emotional and psychological issues to deal with.

“We often see partners who are concerned about changes in relationships. Things that were wrong in the relationship can become heightened. If you’re the partner, suddenly you’re a carer and the relationship is different.

“There is quite a significant correlation between cancer and relationship breakdown. We can help people to deal with relationship issues.

“We can also help children to understand what is happening when they have cancer or if a relative or friend has cancer. That is why we have toys like ambulances and nursing kits. Play therapy really helps and we have a scanning system that is universally used in children’s counselling which shows us that it is working well.

“We can see that levels of stress and anger are reduced and that children become more kind and helpful.

“Teenagers often tell us that they feel they can’t been a teenager anymore and that there is a pressure to be good but they don’t know how. They are able to vent their emotions with us.”

Samreen Khan, a counsellor with CancerCare in Lancaster, says: “Counselling is important because it provides a safe, nurturing space for people to openly talk about their experiences.

“As a counsellor I am trying to get to know the whole person as a unique individual, this means not just their diagnosis, which some people can feel reduced too.

“I support each person to share their experience and enable them to tap in to their own strengths and resources at a time when they may be feeling very fragile and alone.

“Each person has their own unique way of processing what they are going through and I try to work with their individual needs. For example, some people express themselves through words, however others may do so more visually through written or creative means, therefore I can adapt and adjust my practice to incorporate this into our work together.

“As a counsellor I cannot take away what the person is going through but I can be a supportive companion alongside their journey towards living with what has happened.”

When counselling comes to an end some clients choose to keep in touch and join one of CancerCare’s support groups. Some people will also go on to use the charity’s free therapeutic services such as aromatherapy or the Alexander Technique if this is appropriate.

On average, £570 is spent on each person who receives the service (this includes staff costs, heating of rooms and such like). When asked, 100 per cent of people said they would recommend CancerCare and 84 per cent described the service as “excellent”.

Alison added: “Our counsellors are really dedicated and see the value in what they do because it makes such a difference to people.

“They all go the extra mile and we are so grateful to them for that.”

CancerCare’s Therapy Coordination Team can be contacted on: 01524 381 820