New Macmillan cancer psychology service launched in Lincolnshire
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New figures from Macmillan show that people with cancer in the East Midlands are more likely than average to be affected by sadness or depression or worry, fear or anxiety as a result of their diagnosis, with one in four (27% - equating to more than 50,000 people in the region) currently struggling with these feelings compared with 24% of people with cancer in England overall1.
The Macmillan Cancer Psychology Service Lincolnshire, developed in partnership with the East Midlands Cancer Alliance and Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, will fund a team of four clinical psychologists to work across the county to provide this vital support.
Through a series of fully personalised therapy sessions the service aims to improve quality of living for people with cancer, whether newly diagnosed or at end of life.
It is hoped that the psychological support could also have a positive impact on cancer survival rates and help to reduce emergency hospital admissions.
Natalie Leatherland, 35, from Grantham, was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2021 when she was six weeks pregnant.
Going through cancer while pregnant, and then afterwards coping with being a new mum alongside treatment, led Natalie into depression and anxiety.
Natalie was referred to Clinical Psychologist Jennifer Carty, from Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, who supported her throughout the experience.
Natalie said: “Putting myself in that chemo chair week after week, for such a long time, it was a scary place to be. I found myself becoming increasingly anxious as the chemo wore me down mentally and physically. As I progressed further in my pregnancy it got even harder. Jen came up with tailored strategies that physically allowed me to cope with that situation.”
When Natalie was nine weeks pregnant she had a mastectomy and lymph node removal. She started chemotherapy when she was 16 weeks pregnant, with regular scans to check on her baby’s health.
She said: “Straight after surgery they checked the baby was okay and he was. His heartbeat was really strong and I knew he was a fighter and that we’d get through this. That was the first time I allowed myself to bond with him.”
Treatment was paused while she gave birth to baby Theodore and resumed again when he was just 4 weeks old.
Natalie said: “After Theodore was born, that’s when my mental health hit its biggest wall. All I could see was more chemo, another surgery and radiotherapy to get through. Everything felt too much. I felt like I couldn’t be his mother because I was too ill. I just needed it all to stop. Jen was there for me. She was the anchor in the storm. I always say more people need a Jen in their lives.”
Jen worked with Natalie to help her develop coping mechanisms to get her through the experience. Natalie has now nearing the end of treatment.
She said: “I can honestly say I have never been happier. I’m finding my feet with being a mum and starting to live again. We celebrated Theo’s first birthday and spent the summer going on day trips as a family, something I thought might never happen.”
Ruth Willis, Macmillan Partnership Manager, said: “Being diagnosed with cancer can be a traumatic experience, with many people experiencing psychological needs on top of their physical treatment. Currently there is only a very small psychological support service operating in Lincolnshire, with very long waiting times. We’ve worked closely with Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to fill this gap and ensure people can access the vital psychological support they need.”
Chris Higgins, Director of Operations at Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust added: “We’re pleased to be able to provide a tailored psychological service, in partnership with East Midlands Cancer Alliance and Macmillan, for people living with cancer in Lincolnshire.
“We recognise that people’s mental health and wellbeing can be significantly impacted by having a cancer diagnosis and so our aim is to ensure individuals living with cancer, as well as their families and carers, receive the help they need to maximise their quality of life”.
If you are living with cancer in Lincolnshire, speak to your healthcare professional for more information and to find out if you are eligible for support.
For information, support or just someone to talk to, call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk.