Advocacy is about ensuring all people are treated fairly and have access to the best treatment and support. By helping older people affected by cancer to resolve issues and difficulties that they may be facing, Advocates enable them to focus on their health and well-being, particularly if they are feeling unwell and undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment.
Below are a few success stories from advocates and older people affected by cancer, you can also follow the links below to download ‘Facing Cancer Together’ and ‘Every Step of the Way’, booklets detailing success stories from cancer advocacy projects both regionally and nationally.
‘In my role as Advocacy Volunteer I have been overwhelmed in a way I had not anticipated – by the privilege of being allowed into the lives of others and to become a true support and ally in their difficult journeys.
I have found that the most important need of my partners is to talk – to express their feelings, fears, doubts and worries to a friendly, non-partisan, non-judgemental person.
Listening in this way can help a person reflect on their treatment choices, and to prepare for the many challenges that living with and surviving a cancer diagnosis brings.
Of course the prognosis is not always good and advocacy can then fulfil an important role helping the person and family plan for the future and come to terms with their decisions. Here, as with all discussions, it is important not to become too involved, or bring your own feelings and opinions into the discussions.
It all sounds very difficult but I assure you, it is all worthwhile and you are rewarded with the gratitude of the individual you have supported, their friends and family.’
‘Becoming an Advocacy Volunteer has turned out to be the most worthwhile volunteer role that I have ever been asked to play.’
I am Alec. I was born in 1941. I live by myself in a small town, I’ve lived there since 1976. I don’t have any family living nearby. I had become something of a recluse, having lived alone for many years. I had also thought about joining a few clubs or something to try and get myself out a bit.
In 2011 I was suffering a number of symptoms which I didn’t understand. These included stiff knees and numb knuckles. I tried physiotherapy at that time but it didn’t make much difference. I was still driving my car at this time. I described it as my ‘ace card’ because it was so important to me.
I was diagnosed with CIDP (Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy) in June 2011 and I went to hospital for tests. I had to go every 6 weeks to receive treatment. This involved having fluids in my arms because I had a blood abnormality. I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2 in 2013 which was being controlled by diet. However things still didn’t get right and I kept losing weight. I went into hospital in September and, on my 72nd birthday, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis made me realise that I needed help and support.
Living alone isn’t a pleasant experience when you have this sort of news to contend with. I was still hopeful at this time because the Oncology specialist was giving me chemotherapy treatment and I was told that I had a chance of recovery. The Oncology team had given me a plan that involved me joining local groups. I had been given some leaflets. I had also been told about the cancer advocacy service. I contacted the number on the leaflet. They said that although the service wasn’t in my area, because I was having my treatment in the area they covered, they would send someone to see me. Janet and Christopher visited me at home and I was able to tell them my story. I showed them the information that I already had and told them what I had been told so far. Janet, who was to be my advocate, was very sympathetic. She told me that she had many years’ experience of working with people with cancer. We agreed that she would look into some of the groups that had been mentioned by the hospital team and that she would also contact the Oncology team to clarify one or two things for me. However, when she came back to see me I had just been given the news that I had secondary cancer of the lungs and I think they said the liver. I was told that I would only have another 6 months at the most to live. I had been hoping that the treatment might be the answer but now I had a different reality. The plans that Janet and I had now to make were very different. I told her all about what family I had. I didn’t have a will. Janet and I are now making plans for when I am gone. We are looking towards appointing an executor and making an appointment to make a will. I am also making my own funeral plans with the help of Janet. Janet is still looking to find groups that I may enjoy and she is concentrating on that in the New Year. I still have good mobility and she is looking for things that I can enjoy whilst I still have some time left to do it.