A support group set up for people referred to Ipswich Hospital with skin cancer has celebrated its tenth birthday by meeting face-to-face for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group was formed in 2011 by Macmillan skin cancer clinical nurse specialist Rachel Alexander and current chair Sue Roberts, with help and advice from its initial members. Its aim was to provide patients the chance to share experiences, listen to guest speakers and provide mutual support in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
It has since gone from strength to strength, meeting every two months before the pandemic and monthly via MS Teams since to ensure that members didn’t feel alone.
The group had two reasons to celebrate on Tuesday (7 September), as not only did it celebrate its 10th anniversary but was also able to meet in person for the first time in 18 months.
“Patients tell us that the find the group welcoming and relaxing, and gain a lot of support from sharing their experiences with each other,” said Rachel. “It is a safe place where they can talk about things which they might find difficult to discuss with their families, which is incredibly valuable.
“As a group, we work together to plan our programme for the year, which includes welcoming guest speakers to discuss areas such as wellbeing, mindfulness and support services. We also arrange lots of more light-hearted activities, such as laughter yoga sessions.
“In addition, members provide easy-to-understand information for other patients, including a special handbook to guide them from diagnosis through treatment to discharge.
“We are delighted that the group has shown such longevity and been able to support so many people over the years, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet face-to-face once more.”
Feedback from members of the group is consistently positive, with comments including:
• “To know you are not alone with your diagnosis is really helpful. For someone who did not know anyone with skin cancer it was really helpful to talk and learn in a safe environment.”
• “There is a wide range of ages within the group and whatever the problem, someone has been there and can offer advice. I really enjoy the social aspect as well as the continued support.”
• “Initially coming to a support group can be a little daunting, however the group is welcoming and friendly and we learn a lot. I am very glad to be a member and look forward to our meetings.”
For more information about the group, please email Rachel.
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