“I was finding that Mum’s diagnosis was affecting everything in my life – not just emotionally but in my work too. I was getting really stressed about stupid things and felt as though I was losing control”
“My husband attended the course with me and it affected him in a very positive way. When you are diagnosed, your nearest and dearest can feel like they have been ‘left on the shelf’ so to speak”
Helping each other…
The impact of cancer doesn’t stop with the individual though; it can be felt by anyone who is close to someone living with a cancer diagnosis.
Participants who attended with a supporter ‘reported significantly higher social wellbeing immediately after the course and at 6 weeks after the course’.
In recognising that cancer affects the people close to you, we also have to acknowledge the crucial role that relationships can play in supporting someone with cancer before, during and after treatment. We have always believed that the support of a close friend, family member or colleague can make a huge difference and that the supporter and the person with cancer can both benefit from our courses and services.
The most commonly reported concerns among supporters were psychological and emotional (38%).
Twenty one percent of the total number of people who took part in this study were supporters; we wanted to understand the impact the ‘Living Well’ course had on them and why they came on the course so we analysed them as a separate group.
We found that they had the same top 3 concerns as people on the course who had been diagnosed with cancer; family problems and relationships, emotional problems and psychological issues.
Supporters also reported concerns that were unique to them in their role as a supporter of someone living with cancer. We found that the top 3 concerns were ‘the physical health of the patient’, ‘concerns over providing support’ and the ‘mental health of the patient’.
The findings demonstrated that supporters have their own distinct concerns. They are worried for the person they are supporting and themselves. That both groups share concerns about ‘family problems & relationships’ was a particularly interesting finding; we then wanted to know whether or not the course had helped with this and their other concerns.
‘Mutual benefits were experienced by the supporter and by the participants who brought the supporter’.
“I really wanted to understand what she was going through so that I could support her better… Mum and I share a deep connection and even though we live apart, I felt as though I was on her journey with her ”
“The course not only helps [supporters] to gain a greater understanding of what their loved one is going through , but also gives them guiding principles and techniques which they can use as well”
One of the things that the ‘Living Well’ course does is to offer people space and time to focus on themselves and their relationships. Supporters are given the same opportunities as the person they are accompanying and, as part of a supportive group, have the chance to talk with other supporters and ‘share notes’.
From the patients’ perspective they were glad that their supporter was getting time to talk with other supporters. This appeared to ease the worries that the patients had about their supporter’s wellbeing and helped to encourage more communication.
Supporters meanwhile reported that the course gave them ‘time-off’ and a chance to focus on themselves. Many reported leaving the course as more effective supporters. Another reported benefit was that the course had ‘helped them to come to terms with the cancer diagnosis’.
Both patients and supporters reported that they had closer relationships as a result of the course with more open communication instead of keeping their fears and concerns hidden from each other.
The study has shown that the whole person support offered by the Living Well course can make a real difference and that the benefit to supporters and patients is mutual. To understand this benefit and the impact of the course over a longer time period further research is required.
Finally, supporters were asked if they would recommend this course to other people supporting someone with cancer, to which all respondents replied ‘yes’.
“I was nervous about going and about taking advantage of the resources available… I needn’t have worried. I was given the space to express myself in an environment where people understood me… it has made a profound difference and I am so grateful for the experience. I would recommend it to anyone”
Find out about some of the key findings from the evaluation here or read, download and share:
The Full Report
The Summary Report
Note: The quotes and stories featured in these articles have not been drawn from the evaluation. They have been contributed by people who have attended a ‘Living Well’ course.
To find out more about this evaluation and other research please email firstname.lastname@example.org.