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Helping people to live well with cancer in North Tyneside

A cancer nurse with more than 25 years' experience has launched a new charity to provide accessible support to those affected by cancer. We caught up with founder Maureen Elliott to find out more...

By Laura Kingston

Congratulations on the launch of Live Well with Cancer – what led you to set up the charity? 

I’ve been supporting people and their families to get through a cancer diagnosis and beyond for more than two decades. The support out there from the NHS and other charities is great – everyone does their best – but I could still recognise unmet needs in the region. 

The number of people living with cancer is increasing, with over 16,000 new cancers diagnosed in the North East each year. As the number of people surviving cancer increases, more people have significant unmet needs, particularly at the end of treatment. 

​For example, a lot of patients and their families struggle to open up to each other about their emotions surrounding the diagnosis and even their recovery. People try to protect those around them and it can lead to anxiety, low mood and sometimes depression.

In April 2019 I got a group of people together – who now make up the trustees of the charity – and all of who had been affected by cancer in some way. We came up with lots of ideas to provide support and importantly, to provide a safe environment where we break down any embarrassment or barriers that often stop people from asking for support. 

What services will it offer people in the region?

A big part of Live Well with Cancer is building an accessible community for people affected by cancer to support each other so that no-one has to feel alone.

We aim to help people live life to the full – with and beyond a cancer diagnosis. Our focus is to empower people through self-help, mutual support and signposting to local services.

 

We focus on living well with cancer; because you can. 

What are some of the events planned?

We have a full programme of events, workshops and exercise classes for men and women which are adaptable to all levels of fitness. 

Our workshops are tailored, we have simple ‘Let’s Chat’ sessions where people can ask questions about anything from sex, talking to their loved ones, anxiety – anything that they want to discuss in a supportive environment. We’ll also host sessions such as craft and chat where people can just get together regularly and talk, and then there are the fun exercise classes and choirs which everyone can enjoy. 

All sessions are free and open to anyone who has been affected by cancer, although all small donations are greatly received!

It’s really inspiring to see you and the trustees making such a difference to people’s lives in the region – tell us about you?

My vision is that every person in North Tyneside will get a follow-up visit from Live Well with Cancer within a month following their treatment. 

On Monday of this week, we had a launch event at Whitley Bay Playhouse and it felt amazing to see it all come to fruition after so many months of planning. For me personally, it was a significant night. I got divorced last month and whilst I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy I’m pleased it happened. I don’t think I would have set the charity up – it’s been really empowering to do something myself which will help and support so many people. 

Meet the trustees

Rachel Grecian

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, Rachel has first-hand experience of the gaps in service provision for young women facing cancer. She is keen to use her skills as a creative marketing and communications practitioner to address these gaps and establish a strong support network in North Tyneside.

Sarah Nicholson

 

Diagnosed with stage 3 low-grade ovarian cancer at 25, Sarah knows the rollercoaster of emotions that cancer patients go through during and after treatment. She will use her personal experience to help other people improve the quality of their life after a cancer diagnosis.

Irene Anderson

 

With over 35 years’ experience in community fitness, dance, singing and events organisation, Irene runs two successful community choirs, has a psychology degree and is a qualified counsellor. She is passionate about helping the community she lives in.

Catherine Anderson

 

After completing a Law degree, Catherine formed ‘The Happiness Company’ with her mother Irene. Having worked in community fitness for seven years, she is a fully qualified dance and fitness instructor who specialises in women’s health and wellbeing.

Debbie Thomas

 

After qualifying as a nurse, Debbie has dedicated her nursing career of 18 years to women’s health, most recently supporting women across their whole cancer pathway. She is a qualified reiki practitioner and owner of ‘Flourish’ Women’s wellbeing and coaching, where she helps women reconnect with their truth.

Sarah Dodds

 

With seven years’ experience working in the IT industry, Sarah is now a trainee accountant. Passionate about cancer care in North Tyneside, Sarah will be Live Well with Cancer’s treasurer.

Alison McDonald

 

Semi-retired after over 30 years as a qualified nurse, Alison has supported cancer patients on the ward and as a nurse specialist in liver and pancreatic cancers. She has spent the last six years working as a one-to-one nurse in the community, building a wealth of knowledge.

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