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Cancer patients facing increased anxiety during lockdown says charity boss

By David Porter

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A leading cancer charity boss has said that people diagnosed with cancer in the north-east are facing increased anxiety during lockdown.

Dr Colette Blackwell
Dr Colette Blackwell

Chief executive of CLAN Cancer Support, Dr Colette Backwell reports that the charity’s telephone and counselling services have supported hundreds of people who are worried about their or their family member’s cancer diagnosis and what the future holds.

Dr Backwell, who is also the chair of the Grampian Cancer Partnership Group and sits on the NHS Cancer Strategy Group, said: “The pandemic lockdown has had a major effect on us all, with fears of unemployment, family tensions and home-schooling requirements.

"However, if you have a cancer diagnosis, those fears are multiplied exponentially.”

“When someone receives a cancer diagnosis, they are anxious to begin treatment and having this paused or altered in some way, even with the reassurance from their medical team, can be incredibly worrying.”

CLAN, which closed its face-to-face centres in March to protect clients, staff and volunteers, immediately set up a telephone support service, delivered counselling by telephone and launched an online resource centre.

The telephone support team offers practical and emotional support, as well as signposting to other relevant agencies and online resources.

She continued: “Our local centres are a place of refuge and comfort, and cancer patients and their families come in regularly to talk to people who understand what they are going through and can help them build the resilience to deal with it.

"Losing that contact has made life very difficult for many of our clients.

"We set up the telephone and counselling services to ensure CLAN was still able to support people diagnosed with cancer, and we have been able to support not only our existing clients but also people coming to us for the first time.”

A CLAN client said: “It was really hard to phone, and I didn’t know what is was going to be like but I’m really glad I did. I felt really silly phoning and not knowing what to say or do but the person I spoke to put me at ease and reassured me.

"I felt much better by the end of the call and will find it easier to call again.”

While the demand for CLAN’s services remains high, they have seen a significant drop in income due to the cancellation and postponement of key events this year.

Dr Backwell continued: “CLAN has been a lifeline for those affected by cancer during the Coronavirus pandemic, and that is why it is so important for CLAN to continue to be there and give people affected by cancer the hope, reassurance and support they so desperately need.

"However, we need the support of the people in the community to ensure that we are still here for our clients in their time of need.”

You can support CLAN by visiting www.clanhouse.org/donate

CLAN Cancer Support is an independent charity which provides comfort, support and information, free of charge, for anyone, of any age, affected by any type of cancer. CLAN aims to support people to reduce anxiety, stress and to increase their ability to cope with the effects of a serious illness.

Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.

CLAN has outreach in Ballater, Banchory, Buckie, Crimond, Elgin, Buckie, Inverurie, Lossiemouth, Turriff, Kirkwall and Lerwick.

Telephone numbers as follows:

Aberdeen 01224 647000

Moray 01343 544132

Deeside 07720 737497

Inverurie 01467 624687

Orkney 01856 873393

North Aberdeenshire 01779 487176

Shetland 01595 697275

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