One of the aspects of our work that suffered the most during the pandemic was our outreach work in local hospitals.
Due to the face-to-face nature of much of the work we do with cancer patients, in April 2020 the covid pandemic stopped us going into Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Westmorland General and Furness General to provide therapy on the oncology wards.
In May last year our therapists were finally allowed back onto wards and the demand for services has risen dramatically. In the first month back we had fewer than ten appointments, in June this rose to 53, and then in October and November combined we've had nearly 290.
Andrea Husband is one of our aromatherapists and she works at Furness General Hospital with the palliative care team and in the oncology unit. As part of her role, she visits patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and gives massages to help alleviate any discomfort and anxiety associated with the treatment.
“Covid has put a huge strain on the NHS staff and there are not always the resources to enable them to spend quality time with patients struggling with new diagnoses, loneliness, anxiety and pain. Restrictions on visitors have also compounded these feelings for many patients,” she said.
“As a CancerCare therapist I have the opportunity to spend this quality time with patients. Just being there to listen to their worries and life stories is often just as therapeutic as the aromatherapy massage. Many patients have said my visits take their mind off their physical pain and helps take their mind off negative thoughts.
Andrea also helps to support “end of life” patients and the daughter of one of her clients, an elderly lady who died while in hospital, said:
“My mum was admitted to hospital and told she had metastatic cancer, which was a great shock to us all. She died in hospital a week later. During her stay, she did not want us to visit every day and I found great comfort in knowing that she was seeing Andrea for aromatherapy and she had an empathetic therapist to talk to about her fears and wishes.
“Andrea came to visit our family just before mum died and she sat with me and eased my anxiety greatly with her calming manner. She was able to reassure us that mum received nurturing care from the staff and found laughter and joy in her final days.
“Mum had some in-depth conversations with Andrea during her final week of life and this brought deep comfort to our family as we knew she was not alone with her thoughts and the shock of her diagnosis.”
In these uncertain, isolating times our family is so thankful CancerCare services are available within the NHS. When the time is right my family will access your bereavement services with great faith that we will be looked after well.”
Susannah Cogger is another of CancerCare’s aromatherapists and she goes into RLI and Westmorland General on a weekly basis.
Susannah said that as well as aromatherapy massage being relaxing, it also has powerful psychological benefits.
“While aromatherapy might not be a traditional talking therapy like counselling, we are also there to listen and are there for our clients to be able to ‘offload’ whatever negative feelings or problems they may be going through.
"During sessions, many clients find they are free to talk about any anxieties and fears they may be reluctant to share with their families and friends so massage can often provide all the benefits of counselling for the mind while also be wonderfully therapeutic for the body.”