[A] charity that helps families and individuals to cope with cancer is marking its first year in Barrow.
CancerCare has supported 143 people – twice as many people as the charity had thought it would see for counselling and other therapies in its first year of existence.
Sarah Farr, 34, a mum and NHS health visitor from Barrow, who was CancerCare’s first client, said the charity’s free support services had helped her to enjoy family and working life again.
Sarah is mum to Maisie, 7, and is married to Eugene Farr. Her parents, Margaret and Steve Raw, also live in Barrow.
Sarah said: “The first time I had aromatherapy with CancerCare the therapist held my hand and I realised the last time someone did that, they had been putting a needle into me. It was so nice at CancerCare because it wasn’t intrusive.”
Sarah was diagnosed with cervical cancer in November 2016 and fortunately the disease could be successfully treated.
She explained: “I got off lightly in a way. I had ‘stage one’ cancer and I had eight weeks of treatment. I was very focused during that time.
“When I was given the ‘all clear’ that was when the emotions tumbled out. The counselling really helped. It was a safe space to let the feelings out.”
Sarah has been a health visitor since 2014 and a nurse for 10 years.
She heard about CancerCare when she had her diagnosis and went on to have surgery on January 9, 2017. She was given the all clear at the end of January 2017 and now has six monthly check-ups.
Sarah said: “I self-referred to CancerCare by email. I decided to have counselling as I was concerned about going back to work.
“Just doing anything normal felt really strange. Everything felt overwhelming and it was good to have a safe place to talk to someone. You can say anything and you’re not going to hurt anyone.
“I’m a protector and I didn’t let a lot slip to family and friends. It was nice to have that safe space to talk. Just to be able to offload. It was helpful for my counsellor to explain that it was normal.
“We talked a lot about how we don’t prioritise ourselves. I realised that I need to be in a good place to look after myself and to care for everybody at home and at work.
“We had quite a lot of chats about how to handle it when people says ‘how are you?’ That was really helpful.”
Sarah is now seeing an aromatherapist from CancerCare for therapeutic massage.
She said: “I was back at work and I was finding it hard to relax.
“The massage sessions have been lovely. I had never ‘indulged’ myself in massage before. I always thought I was too busy for something like massage.
“I always feel lovely afterwards. It’s just so relaxing. I can put my feet up and chill.
“It has made me realise that I do a really stressful job; I’m a busy mum and I need to stop and take care of myself.”
Sarah said she is glad that the service is now available to people in Barrow and across the Furness peninsula.
She said: “In Barrow lots of families need support. I saw a little girl coming for counselling the other day and I thought ‘how lovely!’
“I have already recommended it to several people who have cancer. It’s amazing how many other people have got cancer or who have had it.
“Family members are also going through it and they can have support too. If they haven’t heard of CancerCare, I direct them to it. The people who work there are really nice and they make you feel lovely.
“We’re quite isolated in Barrow because we’re out on a peninsula and people often have to travel for services. It’s great that CancerCare is in Barrow (and Ulverston) – it’s so handy.”
Sarah says she feels better now and is looking to the future: “My operation was ‘fertility sparing’ and were going to try for another child in the spring.
“I feel emotionally well now and able to handle what life brings.”
CancerCare is delighted to have been able to help Sarah and many others over the last year.
Rachel Minshull, Barrow and Furness Development Officer, said: “What a year it’s been! We have seen 143 people (not including hospital work) in our first year.
“We have been constantly busy and I’ve been amazed at how quickly it has taken off. It’s an amazing charity to work for and to be part of.
“Sarah was our first referral on January 27 2017. We had been offering services at Furness General Hospital for 17 years so we were delighted to open a permanent base in the town.
“Some research was done and a report showed that services were needed in Barrow. That’s why the decision was made to open a centre.”
Rachel, who lives on the Coast Road near Ulverston, started working in Barrow on December 1, 2016.
She said: “What we are offering is so needed in this area. This is demonstrated by the number of people who have come to see us.
“We expected to see around 65 people in the first year but it has been more than double that amount.
“I’m so proud of the work that we are doing here; that we are able to help all of these people who didn’t have anywhere like this to go before.
“One client told me if it wasn’t for CancerCare she didn’t know where she would be right now. She had been feeling lost and didn’t know what to do.
“When you find out you have cancer, you have all these appointments thrust upon you. You don’t always have time or the opportunity to digest the information. CancerCare is somewhere that can enable you to do that.”
The service in Barrow and across the Furness peninsula offers free therapies to people facing cancer and their friends and family.
Rachel explained: “Cancer affects so many people in your life. It can affect your family, your peers and your wider circle of friends.
“There might be certain things you don’t want to say to your family and friends because they’re going through it too. Everyone needs a safe environment to work out what they need to do.”
CancerCare’s Barrow service at the Trinity Church Centre on Warwick Street has four counsellors, two aromatherapists, an Alexander Technique teacher and a counsellor who works with children. The plan is to expand the service as the demand grows.
Rachel said: “Our figures show that the demand is increasing month on month.
“We’ll soon have a hypnotherapist coming on board. We are also starting up some support groups including things like sports, relaxation and singing.”
Members of the community are also being encouraged to hold events and do fundraising. Events in Barrow over the last year included a Fire and Ice Walk at Barrow Raiders and a Clubbercise ‘Clubbing for Cancer’ event at The Forum.
Neil Townsend, chief executive of CancerCare, said: “I feel utter pride in how our charity has gone about developing this service with the community; following up, securing funding and working towards a sustainable model.”
Stacey Smith, an Aromatherapist for CancerCare in Barrow and Ulverston, said: “The way CancerCare has grown in Barrow over the last year has been incredible.
“The therapies we offer really do help people at the hardest times of their life and to be able to be part of their journey is a privilege.
“This area has needed a service like this for a long time and I think the way the local community has got behind us and supported us with events like the Fire and Ice Walk and Clubbericse has really given us a warm welcome. I’m excited about Cancercare’s future in Barrow and about the amount of people we will be helping.”
Rachel added: “The people of Barrow and Furness have really taken CancerCare on board and we want to let many more people know we’re here.
“To have reached the milestone of one year is great. It’s wonderful to see it being so successful. To see two times as many people as we thought we’d be seeing is amazing.”
CancerCare can be contacted for support at www.cancercare.org.uk.