19 September 2017

Patient group raises funds and awareness for head and neck cancer

A support group for head and neck cancer patients has purchased four nebulisers to help people currently going through treatment.

Heads Together: Sheffield Head and Neck Cancer Support Group raised £396 to buy the nebulisers for Weston Park Hospital.

Nebulisers can be used to help patients breathe more easily by delivering a vapour to help to clear the throat and chest.

The group is made up of patients who have been treated for head and neck cancers at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. They hold fundraising events with the money raised going to Weston Park Cancer Charity.
Members of the group said that as well as helping current patients, they hoped their activities would raise awareness of head and neck cancers, signs and symptoms and the support that is available.

Irene Hallam, 69, of Malin Bridge, Sheffield, was treated for cancer of the voice box in 2003. She had to have her voice box removed followed by radiotherapy treatment.

She said: “It was shock but I was determined to fight it and get better. At first after the surgery I could not talk at all and I had to go to the speech therapists, but they were brilliant and I could speak again in a few months.

“The support group was suggested to me by the hospital, so I went along and from there we started meeting up on a fortnightly basis. It has been really beneficial, because to begin with you feel like you are the only person going through it, but then you realise there are others in the same boat. We can have a laugh and exchange notes.

“I had loved singing all my life, so not being able to do that was a big, big blow at first. But I mime now and dance along to the music. That is what life is about. I am lucky to be here so I enjoy every minute.

“We try to raise awareness, because head and neck cancers are not something a lot of people know about. I was diagnosed after suffering a terrible sore throat. I have been into hospital to speak to other patients about the treatments and give them that support and hope that you can come through it.”

Of the decision to raise money for nebulisers, she said: “I used a nebuliser and it was very beneficial – it really helped with my chest. It is a lovely feeling to know that we can help people with the same thing now.”

Group Chairman Eric Bailey, 78, of Barnsley, was treated in 2003 for cancer of the vocal cords.

He said: “My treatment at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals was brilliant, and within one week of being diagnosed I had had an operation to have the cancer removed.

“I decided to go along to the support group, and I have been with them ever since. Everyone is different and we can all talk about how we cope with things. It is a really good mix of practical support and a friendship group.”

Consultant Oncologist Dr Bernie Foran said the nebulisers would be very useful for current patients.

She said: “We are very grateful to the group for purchasing them for us.

“Patients with these kind of cancers tend to get very congested, so the nebulisers can be very beneficial for them. It can make it much more comfortable for breathing and eating, and helps with coughing and congestion.”

Heads Together has been established for about 12 years and has raised £7,000 in that time. It meets bi-monthly and organises trips and social events, as well as peer and professional support and speakers. Its focus is on helping people to get back on with life after treatment.

Clinical Nurse Specialist for Head and Neck at Weston Park Hospital, Louise Marley, said: “The group helps to get people out of the house and gives them more confidence. The peer support is amazing – it is the best tonic. The members of the group have formed real friendships.”

If you would like to get involved with the group or find out more, please contact Louise on 0114 226 8776 or louise.marley@sth.nhs.uk.


Photo captions:

1) Clinical Nurse Specialist Louise Marley, Clinical Nurse Specialist Tracy White, Eric Bailey, Terry Brookes, Dr Bernie Foran, Irene Hallam, Wendy Beal
2) Irene Hallam
3) Eric Bailey

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