Macmillan Cancer Support estimates that 179,000 people are currently living with cancer in Yorkshire, many of these people will be living with a diagnosis of incurable cancer and continue receiving treatment for the rest of their lives.
The unique challenges faced by this group of people can include concerns around family, employment and managing the side effects of cancer treatment such as extreme fatigue. Matt Lackford, 34 from Halifax was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, a rare type of incurable cancer, in 2018, he said:
“Around the time I turned 30, I started noticing changes in myself, at the time I just put it down to being a dancer and having put my body under enormous stress throughout my career.
“This changed when I found a lump on my neck and my GP referred me straight away for tests, shortly afterwards I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.”
This type of cancer is extremely rare in people under 40, although the cancer is incurable it is treatable. Matt is currently on the Flair clinical trial; he is being treated with a combination of antibiotics and Ibrutinib.
Matt was able to access support from the Macmillan Information and Support Service based at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. The Macmillan team suggested that he take part in the ‘Thinking Ahead’ course, a course offering support for people with incurable cancer, Matt continues:
“Having a diagnosis of cancer is incredibly stressful and having to navigate that alone would have seemed like an unscalable mountain.
“Having the support of the Macmillan team makes me feel part of something, I don’t feel like I’m going through this alone.
“The ‘Thinking Ahead’ course is thought provoking and in-depth, it signposts to really helpful support for both me and my family.
“I want to show that people living with cancer can live their lives and celebrate what they achieve.”
Helen Jones is the Macmillan Information and Support Manager at the Macmillan Information and Support Service, she said:
“We know that people can become depressed and feel alone after a diagnosis of incurable cancer, this can also extend to family members who don’t know how best to support their loved ones.
“The aim of the ‘Thinking Ahead’ course is to keep people as well as possible for as long as possible and encourage living life to the full in a supported, self-managed way.
“We want people living with incurable cancer to know they’re not alone, the ‘Thinking Ahead’ course is an opportunity for patients and their family members to meet people with similar challenges and experiences.”
The ‘Thinking Ahead’ course currently runs online and includes expert speakers on topics such as managing uncertainty, keeping active, advance care planning, diet and appetite, managing fatigue, introduction to hospices and care in the last weeks and months of life.
People living with incurable cancer who live in Calderdale or Huddersfield can book onto the course by contacting the Macmillan Information & Support Service on 01484 343614, 01422 222709 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The course, a partnership with Harrogate and Leeds Hospital Trusts, is also open to people living with incurable cancer in those areas too. Click here for more information
Anyone diagnosed with cancer can contact the Macmillan Support Line seven days a week on 0808 808 00 00 or visit the Macmillan website (www.macmillan.org.uk)