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Maggie’s is a charity providing free cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online.
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Our Support Specialists, Psychologists and Benefits Advisors are here, if you or someone you care about has cancer.
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Share experiences with others in a similar situation around the kitchen table in a centre, or in our online community.
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Maggie's clinical psychologist writes in 'Psychology Today'
Maggie’s centres are built in the grounds of NHS hospitals. We work closely with our colleagues in the NHS to complement the specialist care they provide people with cancer, with our own unique psychological and practical support based within beautifully designed and supportive surroundings.
Clinical Psychologist Kate Fulton from Maggie’s at The Royal Marsden, has recently collaborated with Rachel Trimmer, working in the Paediatric and Teenage Psychological Support Service at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
Kate and Rachel originally trained together. In the last year, they have set up a support group for parents of children with cancer.
Rachel and Kate are both clinical psychologists but work in different environments following different cancer care models. Rachel’s team offer psychological therapy, support and advice to families throughout the treatment journey of a child or young person aged under 18 with cancer, from the time of diagnosis, throughout treatment, and after treatment has ended .
Extracts from their article in 'Psychology Today'
When the idea of the support group came up we were keen to avoid overlap with support that the paediatric and young adult psychology team might already be providing. Working with parents of children with cancer is something which the paediatric team at The Royal Marsden encounter daily in their clinical work.
Whilst it is not the sole focus of a Maggie’s psychologist, the themes of shock, grief, a sense of powerlessness and guilt that parents can experience were familiar in both our caseloads. Collaborating with one another to create and run a parent support group came with its challenges though. The paediatric psychological team have a tighter remit in terms of what they offer to the patients and families compared to Maggie’s.
When we began to discuss the logistics of how to create the group across our services, an initial worry was that our two systems might in fact be incompatible. A question remained at the back of our minds: does collaborating to form this group muddy the waters between our services? Or in some way diminish what each service can provide on its own?
Thankfully, our relationship created a space of openness to air some of these challenges and work through them. We both held different experiences and expertise. Working with another practitioner takes you out of your comfort zone and can feel really exposing. We acknowledged this worry early on, and negotiated a way of offering one another reassurance as the group progressed.
The idea of engaging with a psychological support service holds many different meanings for different people; ideas such as psychological support being for people who lack resilience or who are struggling with severe mental illness. A third sector support organisation such as Maggie’s does not carry the same NHS associations and meanings for many people. Maggie’s centres are designed to be a non-clinical space, to feel more like a home, which give us access to physical and virtual spaces that feel less pathologising or stigmatising.
Alongside recruitment from the paediatric team’s waitlist, advertising the parent support group at Maggie’s enabled us to communicate an important message of this being a group relevant and open to all parents of children receiving treatment, not just those who are ‘referred’ to a Psychologist. It is often the case that those seeking support are ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
At the core of our work is often the need to normalise and validate feelings such as anxiety, guilt and grief. In allowing an open recruitment process, we hoped to encourage the normalisation that living amidst your child’s diagnosis and treatment can be hugely challenging for anyone.
Access to the paediatric team’s waitlist of parents allowed us to speak to a large number of potential group members who had already sought out psychological support. Alongside practical elements, we were also able to use one another to carry motivation and momentum.
Interestingly no one dropped out.
I was concerned that not having people with the same diagnosis would be an issue. It wasn’t though.’ The sense of a shared experience emerged as representing something far greater and more important.
[I valued] learning that we are all fighting the same battle but in some ways all have had such different journeys. Learning everyone’s journey has helped me cope with mine.
It was a space where everyone just got what was going on. People without this in their lives try hard but don’t really know what you’re experiencing.
Although as clinicians we might have had trepidations about our different services and indeed our differing therapeutic approaches and perspectives, our experience was that our NHS/third sector collaboration enabled us to combine and consider varying perspectives from which to plan and deliver a group intervention. We were able to maximise the strengths of each of our services, allowing parents faster access to psychological support.
When we reflect on the process it’s important to acknowledge that sustaining momentum when setting up a group is hard but we want to encourage others to also take the plunge.
The collaboration is one that will continue, with a plan for Maggie’s and the paediatric and young adult psychological support service situated at The Royal Marsden to offer the group to parents throughout the year. Our hope is that this will continue to meet the needs of parents, and strengthen the relationship between our two services.’
How to get support
We are here for you in our centres, by phone, email, and online.
The mental challenge of cancer – 3 in 5 people find it harder than the physical
A survey of 1,000 UK adults who have had or currently have cancer was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Maggie's in April.
The research published today revealed 3 in 5 (58%*) people who have or have had cancer feel that the mental challenge of cancer is harder to cope with than the physical treatment and side effects.
Despite the strain placed on mental health as a result of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, 52% of people with cancer felt there was support for the physical impact of cancer but not the emotional effects of cancer.
Furthermore, 47% of people with cancer didn't know where to go for mental health support.
The survey of 1,000 people who have or have had cancer, also revealed the shocking long-term impact of cancer on mental health**.
While practical support during diagnosis and treatment for cancer is widely available, the effect on their mental health is cited as a long term challenge, faced on a daily basis.
More than two thirds (69%) of people with cancer stated that low mood, sleeplessness and feelings of overwhelm, distress, loneliness and isolation were some of the hardest things to deal with throughout their diagnosis and treatment.
These feelings were even stronger post-treatment with 82% of people with cancer stating that the fear of cancer returning, not feeling like your ‘old self’, feelings of depression or low mood, pressure to ‘get back to normal’ and feelings of loneliness and isolation were some of the hardest things to deal with post their cancer treatment.
56% of those surveyed stated that the single hardest thing to deal with post-treatment was the fear of cancer returning.
Unsurprisingly the pandemic has also had a detrimental effect, with almost half (49%) of people with cancer stating that the combination of coronavirus, shielding, lockdown and their cancer diagnoses had a negative impact on their mental health.
We need to wake up to the fact that cancer is a mental challenge as well as a physical one and that people are not getting the support they need.
This has always been the case and is what we see and hear in our centres every day; that from the point of diagnosis onwards people can feel stress, fear, anxiety, low mood and distress - and often these feelings continue long after treatment has stopped.
But we have 25 years of expertise in helping people with the mental and emotional, as well as the physical challenges of cancer. Our expert staff in our centres, in particular our cancer support and information specialists and our psychologists, can help people manage their emotions in a way that helps them to live well with cancer.
We need to take these figures seriously and make sure as many people as possible get the support they need, now when they need it more than ever.
Dame Laura Lee DBE, Maggie's Chief Executive
Maggie’s is here for everyone with cancer, providing practical and emotional support, from the point of diagnosis onwards.
Professional staff can help you to manage your feelings when you have cancer, before, during and after treatment.
Support includes practical ways of dealing with a diagnosis, emotions and treatment, concerns around self-image, emotions after treatment, advanced cancer, dying and emotions and fear of cancer returning.
Every Maggie’s has a cancer support specialist who can help people when they are scared, worried or feeling down.
To meet more in-depth emotional needs each Maggie’s also offers appointments with psychologists, either one to one in private or in a group with family members.
Part of Maggie’s psychological support also involves bringing people together, either informally round the kitchen table, in courses and workshops, or psychologist facilitated support groups.
* Survey of 1,000 UK adults who have had or currently have cancer. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Maggie's from 08.04.2021-21.04.2021
** Survey of 1,000 UK adults who have had or currently have cancer. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Maggie's from 08.04.2021-21.04.2021