Come join the HOPE course with St Luke’s Hospice

ST Luke’s Hospice in partnership with Macmillan Cancer support are starting a new six week course on 9th February 1.30 to 4.30 aimed at building the confidence of people who are living with or have been through treatment for cancer.

There are still a few places left on the course, which is free of charge and open to anyone who has or has had cancer. Taking place at the Hospice’s satellite Centre :- St. Lukes House, 22 Lampits Hill, Corringham SS17 9AL. Refreshments are provided

Called HOPE (Help to Overcome Problems Effectively), the two-and-a-half hour sessions will bring cancer patients together to ‘meet, share, learn and get more out of life.’ Among the many topics addressed during the course, which will be run by a health professional and someone affected by cancer, are:

Managing stress and emotional challenges

Breathing, relaxation and physical activity

Motivation and goal setting

Identifying personal strengths and building confidence for the future

Claire Thompson took part in one of the Hospice’s

previous HOPE courses – here is her story

Claire Thomson lives in Gaynsford, Basildon, she is 54 and has been married for 35 years to Steve. They have two children a married son, Andrew and daughter Becca.

Claire, a teacher for 17 years at a local primary school, was on holiday in the USA with her husband and had become ‘unwell’ – Claire explains ‘’I should have felt fresh and relaxed on holiday but for no for apparent reason I was feeling very tired, drained and generally ‘not myself’.

When we returned home the symptoms continued so in December 2013 I visited my GP. Tests and scans followed, and then I was given the devastating news that I had ovarian cancer. My husband and children were equally devastated and shocked when I broke the news to them.

The news gradually sunk in, my immediate family and close friends became my rock on what was to become a terrible roller-coaster journey.

I remember that first Christmas, after having an operation and waiting for chemotherapy, everything felt strange, different and difficult for all of us. At the time I was feeling very ill and everyone worked so hard over the festive season keeping up our family traditions, buying and wrapping presents, cooking Christmas dinner as I usually would have done. I was so proud of them all.

On 2nd January 2014 I started Chemotherapy, a treatment I was very fear-full of, which continued on an off for the next 2 years. During that time I was so grateful to have my family and friends supporting me. I went through periods in the treatment which made me very ill and tired – I had lost all my hair – strange as it might seem that didn’t bother me quite as much as I thought it might I just felt grateful for what I had. Steve had become my main carer, with tremendous support from our children, helping with all the domestic jobs and taking me to hospital appointments; thankfully the company he worked for and his boss was so understanding: there were days I couldn’t get out of bed and times when I felt much better and quite on top of things.

My circle of friends and family became very close, and old school friends came back into my life all carrying me through with practical help and emotional support; we laughed, cried, talked making our way through all the highs and lows:

However, although having this amazing network and despite being a very open and chatty person there were feelings and thoughts I kept to myself because I didn’t want to upset my family and friends who were all being so kind, loving and patient. There were days when I felt up-beat and positive about my situation and other days I despaired. Although treatment had gone well and was successful the days I despaired seem to increase, I started to dwell on negative thoughts, becoming withdraw, and irritable with my friends and family. I eventually stopped socialising and didn’t care about very much!

I knew in my head I had to do something about my situation so I went to my GP who suggested I telephoned the Macmillan Cancer Support Helpline. They immediately referred me to St. Luke’s Information Resource Service. I really hesitated to make the call to St. Luke’s because it felt to me like I was somehow ‘giving in’. All I had been through seemed to be weighing heavily on my mind.

I was healing physically and now knew I had to address my emotional welfare, so I plucked up the courage and telephoned St. Luke’s. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done to help myself as in a very short space of time I was speaking to a hospice counsellor who was very understanding and supportive. After just a couple of appointments she suggested that group intervention would be the most appropriate way forward for me, and I was surprised to also be offered a range of further support provided by the Hospice including complementary therapies. I was encouraged and guided to attend their HOPE course, which involved meeting for a few hours weekly over six weeks.

During that time, in a small group and guided by the professional facilitator we covered the whole spectrum of life, emotions and feelings, learning how to relax and sleep better. I was able to review all areas of my life and health, including finances and my career as a teacher, a job I dearly loved which was no longer open to me and had been a big part of my being. I started to look forward to meeting up each week and felt better about myself. It’s difficult to describe just how different I felt after 6 weeks, I felt like my old self again only better – I felt rejuvenated, with new energy and zest for life – almost like a rebooted computer!

I felt that St. Luke’s was an organisation that understood me, giving me an outlet where I could voice and discuss my inner thoughts without fear of upsetting anyone or being judged giving me skills and possibilities that enable me to put my life into perspective and cope again. My family and friends have noticed the difference in me and I now feel confident knowing my family and I can call upon the hospice for help and support at any time. I have lived in the local area all my life and always known of St. Luke’s Hospice but I was not fully aware of what they offered and the impact they can make to people’s life. I am grateful to the Hospice for all they have done for me.

Since finishing my HOPE course I have started training as a volunteer facilitator and am now looking forward to learning more and supporting people who could be in the same place feeling the same as I was’’.

To book a place on the course or for further information about the course contact St. Luke’s House tel: 01375 648170 or email: informationservice@stlukeshouse.org.uk

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