Cancer survivors unite for mutual support

Cancer survival rates in Bournemouth are rising, but is the support network growing too? Laura Curtis visited the ‘Living Well With & Beyond Cancer’ meeting and found mutual aid in action.

A special event was held for the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative at the Bournemouth International Centre on 25th January.

‘Living Well With and Beyond Cancer’ offered local agencies including the NHS, Social Services and Macmillan Cancer Support the chance to exchange ideas about developing an ongoing strategy for future cancer care in Dorset.

Speakers and workshops covered issues including moving, eating and thinking well.  A number of previous participants also acted as mentors and activity leaders, supporting new patients taking part and providing valuable advice from their own personal experiences.

The event was opened by Ciaran Devane, CEO of Macmillan Cancer Support. He said: “I am delighted to be opening this important conference, bringing together people from across the health and social care services in Dorset to discuss the ways in which we support people living with and beyond cancer.

“It is good news that people are living longer after cancer, but the way in which we support them has to change. The system as it is cannot cope, and the number of people living after a cancer diagnosis will double to 4m by 2030, so we need to make changes. Conferences such as this one are vital if we are to make real changes to the system”.

Statistics show that survivor rates for people diagnosed with cancer are increasing. In Dorset there are 4,500 new cases of cancer diagnosed every year.

Organiser Verena Cooper, Lead Nurse from Dorset Cancer Network said: “Across the county we have a changing demographic which means that cancer survivors are increasing year on year. With early awareness and diagnosis of cancer, more people potentially may be touched by the disease, and as a society we need to help individuals adjust and value what is important to them through personalised care planning and help them to live their lives to the full.”

BH Live have been collaborating with Macmillan and the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospital developing a Bournemouth After Cancer Survivorship Programme (BACSUP), which is now nationally recognised and proven to improve the health, fitness and wellbeing of people living with and beyond cancer.

Since 2009, over 300 people have taken part in the BACSUP programme. Many have reported significant improvements in their health, including lower blood pressure, weight, higher levels of fitness and a renewed sense of health and well-being.

Layne Hamerston, Partnerships Development Manager for BH Live said: “It is well documented that leading a more active life can be extremely beneficial for health, fitness and well-being. BH Live is pleased to be actively involved in this event which will generate more opportunities for people to live well with and beyond cancer”.

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