Meet the first Macmillan supporters ... trained and ready to help cancer sufferers

CANCER patients are being given the chance to help others with the disease.

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20 Macmillan supporters graduated at the Mitchell LibraryPicture: Mark Gibson
20 Macmillan supporters graduated at the Mitchell LibraryPicture: Mark Gibson

A team of 20 volunteers, who have had cancer or who have been cancer carers, will support newly-diagnosed patients through their treatment.

They are the first fully-trained Macmillan Supporters and, if the scheme is successful, it will be rolled out across Scotland.

Susanne Convery was diagnosed with mouth cancer three years ago and said the help from Macmillan Cancer Support was invaluable.

She endured a 10-hour operation during which 50% of her tongue was removed and skin grafts from her arm used to repair the damage.

The 40-year-old mum-of-three said: "I wasn't in any of the risk categories for mouth cancer so my diagnosis was a real shock, especially as my three children were young at the time. My twins were just babies.

"There was a Macmillan nurse in the room when I was told I had cancer so they have been with me right since the beginning and I want to let other people know about the services that are on offer.

"When you are diagnosed you go through what I call the 'information fog' and having someone with you who has gone through the same thing can help cut through that fog.

"You can't make it better for people but you can tell them, 'I understand. I was there and I survived.'"

Backed by the NHS, all volunteers have completed comprehensive training that has been quality assured by Queen Margaret University, in Edinburgh, to give them the skills to listen, support and provide advice to cancer patients they meet with or speak to on the phone.

They can talk through issues such as treatment, managing changes in appetite and body weight or simply offer a listening ear.

Each Macmillan supporter has a personal knowledge and understanding to share and cancer patients will be matched with a supporter who has experience of a similar type of cancer.

Supporters also take an accredited module in nutrition to help cancer patients take sensible diet steps.

Dr Fiona Coutts, Dean of Health at Queen Margaret University, said: "It is essential that individuals with cancer are offered sensible and helpful nutritional information to maximise their health.

"We are proud to be involved in an initiative which offers an innovative approach to supporting people with cancer."

Danny Gillespie, 59, is also volunteering to share his experience of lung cancer.

Since giving up smoking in 1998, Danny has been diagnosed with angina, had a double heart bypass and, in 2005, was found to have lung cancer.

During a check-up for his heart trouble a junior doctor noticed the shape of Danny's fingers was unusual - and indicated lung problems.

The former IT worker said: "I'm so lucky that junior doctor was there. My treatment was gruelling and has left me with pulmonary fibrosis, which brings me down.

"But volunteering for Macmillan is making me feel positive. To know I'm going to make a difference to other people is making a difference to me."

Trisha Hatt, Macmillan senior development manager, said: "Receiving a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment will be the toughest fight many people will face.

"Sharing concerns, problems and issues with someone who has gone through something similar not only helps cancer patients to feel they are not alone and but can also give them much needed hope during an uncertain time."


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