Lorraine Andrew is hoping that she can use her shock cancer diagnosis to help others battling the condition in West Dunbartonshire.
Speaking at the launch of a new project between West Dunbartonshire Council and Macmillan Cancer Support, the 54-year-old told how Macmillan’s Improving the Cancer Journey (ICJ) programme had supported her during the most challenging period of her life.
She said: “When you’re diagnosed you’re in a dark place. It feels like you’re falling and it’s as if Macmillan just came along and caught me and built me back up.”
Despite being officially launched this week, the ICJ programme has been running in West Dunbartonshire since April last year, assisting 152 residents battling the disease.
At its heart is ensuring that cancer patients have as little to worry about as possible whilst they deal with the illness, offering a wide range of one-to-one support from assistance with the benefits system to the practical side of living with cancer at home.
Working alongside West Dunbartonshire Council, everyone diagnosed with the condition throughout the area will receive a letter from Macmillan offering their services within six weeks of diagnosis.
And this came as a much-needed boost to Lorraine, who lives in Glasgow where the programme already runs, as she faced challenges she hadn’t previously considered after a routine visit to her GP three years ago.
Lorraine told the Lennox: “I actually went to the doctors for pains in my leg and they asked if I had anything else worrying me. I said I had a strange thing. It wasn’t a lump, it was an indent underneath my left breast where it joins your body.
“When I showed the doctor she arranged an urgent mammogram and it was picked up that the indent was a tumour.
“Then the scan results came back and they said it had spread to my lungs, my liver and my bones, so it was a total shock.”
That created a range of practical issues that Lorraine hadn’t previously considered.
The former NHS call handler continued: “At first you really struggle to come to terms with it then I had additional worries about how I was going to cope more generally.
“I had to stop working and it was around this time that I started to benefit from Macmillan’s support. They offered to come out and carry out a benefits check and holistic assessment.
“My support worker was able to complete the forms on my behalf, I had always been in employment so they were scary and at that time my head was absolutely scrambled.
“They also dealt with creditors on my behalf which was a big weight off my mind.
“But the biggest advantage of the support given by ICJ was the fact that I didnt have to tell my story to multiple people.
“I told it once and the ICJ officers passed it on.”
To date the partnership between the charity and the local authority has maximised benefit income in West Dunbartonshire by £146,000, while residents have been successful in applying to the Warm Homes Scheme.
Supporting people with cancer is a key focus of council chief executive Joyce White.
She said: “We are proud to be part of this and I would like to reinforce our total commitment to helping people with cancer in West Dunbartonshire.
“We at West Dunbartonshire Council are about making lives better and it’s important that we deliver this on the ground.
“I have a lot of statistics about cancer care in the area but for me it’s about that individual person. We’re committed to making that journey better for everyone.”
Lorraine, who will sit on the board of West Dunbartonshire’s ICJ, meanwhile is proud to be shaping the service for future users.
She added: “Nearly three years down the line I feel stronger now – mentally and physically – so I can start giving something back by joining the board where I know my experience is helping to shape the service for future patients.”
The service is open to any person over the age of 16 and living with cancer in West Dunbartonshire.
To arrange an appointment please complete the online referral form at www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/jobs-and-training/working4u/money-advice/cancer-journey-service/ , call the Macmillan Support Line on 08009809070 or email [email protected]n.gov.uk
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