Most of the people who come to CancerCare for support opt for counselling as a way of coping or coming terms with a cancer diagnosis or grief caused by bereavement.
However, the creative support groups, which allow our clients to lose themselves in the creativity of art, crafts and woodwork, can provide a therapeutic effect just as powerful.
Charlotte Bangbala, 37, lives near Kendal and works for the BBC. In 2019 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and, following chemotherapy and surgery, she is now in remission.
However, the diagnosis and subsequent treatment was understandably stressful, both physically and psychologically, and Charlotte found herself in need of some extra support.
“I was finding it all very difficult to cope with. I didn’t know anyone else my age who was going through what I was experiencing and I was feeling very depressed,” said Charlotte.
One of her friends suggested she contact CancerCare and shortly after she was invited for a consultation appointment to assess her needs.
Despite all the talking and physical complementary therapies on offer, after hearing about her love for art and creativity, Charlotte was referred to the Creative Metals Group led by jewellery maker Rachel Hearne.
“I had always had an interest in art and design but I wasn’t sure how it would work as a therapy, however, coming to the groups has provided some of the best support I have had during my illness. Rachel and the other members are fantastic and know what I am going through. If there’s a day I am feeling really off they know just what to say. I know I can talk and be honest about how I am, without it feeling self-indulgent,” said Charlotte.
“I am very busy working from home and looking after a young child so it is wonderful to be able to come here. Making the jewellery is something I had always wanted to do but never imagined I could. Coming to the classes is the highlight of my week, it gets me out of the house and gives me something to focus on.”
Charlotte gifts the jewellery she makes to family and friends and she has recently finished crafting a silver bracelet.
She also said the classes has sparked a “creative explosion” and she had rediscovered her love of art as a result.
“It has definitely unlocked something within me and I am once again loving being creative whether it’s through design, writing or silver smithing. But, for me, coming to CancerCare isn’t just about doing an art class it’s being part of an understanding community who can offer a unique perspective and advice.”
Group sessions, which also include things like yoga and pilates, and are an important part of CancerCare’s work supporting people affected by cancer or bereavement. In 2019/20 more than 200 clients attended a group session. Last year’s pandemic drastically reduced this number down to 104 due to restrictions on face-to-face contact but most of the classes are up and running again with reduced numbers to ensure social distancing can take place.