An exciting collaboration between Peace Hospice Care, The Hospice of St Francis and Macmillan Cancer Support aims to reach out to support the rising number of people living with a life-limiting diagnosis.
The service will be delivered from two main hubs – the Starlight Centre at Peace Hospice Care in Watford and the Spring Centre at the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted.
Each site has a team of rehabilitation specialists and assistants that will deliver the series of workshops and courses that make up the service.
The new courses will be run as day services and patients can be referred at any point from diagnosis onwards.
The palliative rehabilitation service will empower patients to manage their illness and its side effects as well as giving them the opportunity to participate in workshops such as ‘managing fatigue’ and ‘mindfulness’ – a course aimed at teaching stress reduction techniques.
Open to both patients and carers alike, the service will also offer a range of therapies and activities such as tai chi to enable patients to keep active during their treatment.
‘It was life changing’
One patient who is already benefiting from the service is 58-year-old Lesley Boatman.
The mother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and underwent months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Having hit rock bottom she found the lifeline she desperately needed through a six week HOPE (Help Overcoming Problems Effectively) course run by the Starlight Centre at the Peace Hospice.
The weekly sessions are available to individuals like Lesley who are in remission from cancer and are getting on with their life after treatment has finished.
“It was life changing for me,” said Lesley. “My cancer diagnosis and the treatment was so tough to cope with. I lost my job, I lost my energy, I had a severe reaction to the chemotherapy, I was stressed and agitated and felt like I had a rock inside of myself. But I refused to be a cancer patient. Being supported every week was just what I needed.”
Following the HOPE course, Lesley began attending meditation drop-in sessions at the Starlight Centre at the Peace Hospice.
“Everyone should have meditation,” Lesley added passionately. “It has benefited me so much. I look forward to going to the Starlight Centre every week. If I look back, I was so low and stressed. Now I can smile again and be positive. The Peace Hospice is so much more than a hospice. It is there for people like me who need support to get on with life again. The staff really care. They have turned me around.”
Lesley said that just being able to speak to people in the same situation as her was of great benefit. “One of the biggest things to come out of it was the permission to be tired,” she added. “Because the treatment is so debilitating and that’s a real struggle because you expect to bounce back.”
Lesley is now looking forward to her future and thanks the hospice for setting her on the right track: “I’m really well now. And I’m now looking forward to getting back to work and getting on with my life and I feel so much more able to do that from the services and support that I have received at the hospice.”
You can hear a full audio interview with Lesley on the Peace Hospice website, or by clicking on the orange arrow below if you are reading this article on the website.
Speaking about the new collaborative service, Peace Hospice Care Chief Executive Officer Sue Plummer said that working with other organisations allows the hospice to do so much more than working alone:
“We are at the start of a journey working together to reach more people in the community with a life-limiting illness and offer support to meet the holistic needs of every referred person.
“We thank Macmillan who had the vision to see that we could work together on this programme but still retain independence. Our shared aim in this collaboration is to reach more people.”
Gwyneth Tyler, Senior Macmillan Development Manager for the East of England, recognises the importance of providing support alongside and after cancer treatment:
“We know that every day in Hertfordshire 13 people hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Furthermore, cancer diagnoses have increased by 16% in Hertfordshire since 2007 and are projected to rise by a further 14% in the next 10 years. This means that there is an increasing population in this community living with a cancer diagnosis and in need of support and access to rehabilitation.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with The Hospice of St Francis and Peace Hospice Care to collaboratively deliver this community-based programme of rehabilitation and support for people living with and beyond cancer and other life limiting illnesses.”
Kimberley McLaughlin, Director of Supportive Care at The Hospice of St Francis, added:
“Our range of courses, therapies and therapeutic groups help individuals in both practical and emotional ways to build their resilience and continue to live their lives. Initial feedback from our inaugural HOPE course has been overwhelmingly positive. This new emerging approach towards engaging our community at the same time as encouraging self-management is exciting and creative. Together, The Spring and Starlight Centres are revolutionising palliative community care.”