Cancer Chat: Britain’s vital chat room
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Cancer Chat: Britain’s vital chat room
There’s little so comforting to cancer patients as encouragement from those who have survived. That’s why Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Chat online forum is vital to those fighting the illness, and their loved ones, says Rachel Halliwell.
When Brian Campion received the wonderful news that his treatment for prostate cancer had been a success, he wanted to share both his relief and what he had learned from the experience with others who had been affected by cancer.
Until becoming ill, Brian, a retired timber merchant, had been a shy and reserved man. “But suddenly I found my voice,” he says. “And I wanted to use it to try and help other people at the beginning of the journey I’d just completed.”
Brian, from West Sussex, found a marvellous forum through which to do just that: Cancer Research UK’s online discussion site, Cancer Chat.
Launched four years ago, this is a place where people affected by cancer can share experiences and information with others from all over the world.
Cancer Chat is somewhere anyone affected by the illness – whether a patient, friend or relative – can share their stories, talk to others and make new friends. Alternatively, users may scroll through public conversations, gleaning whatever helpful information they can, without ever feeling under pressure to join in.
“I’m 69 and up until last year I would never have had myself down as someone who would join an online chat room – let alone be one of the most vocal people in it,” explains Brian.
“But when I finished my treatment and was told how well it had worked, I was so happy and relieved. I felt a strong urge to help other people in a similar position. Sharing my experiences seemed like a good place to start.”
Brian was first diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago. “I’d had symptoms for a good six months before I finally went to see my doctor,” he admits. “And I only went then because my wife, Rosemary, was so cross with me for not getting checked out.
“Thank goodness she pushed me into making an appointment with my GP. A biopsy and blood test confirmed I had cancer, which needed drug therapy and 37 doses of radiotherapy.
“Had I not listened to Rosemary and continued to put off seeing my doctor, I might not be here today.”
On Cancer Chat Brian often finds himself talking to family members who have a loved one going through treatment.
“What strikes me is that when someone in the family gets a cancer diagnosis, there is a communication blackout,” he says. “Family and friends don’t want to bring the subject up in case they upset their loved one. And the person with the illness is often too scared to share how they’re feeling, so they put on a brave face to the people around them.
“On Cancer Chat, I – along with many others – try to be a shoulder to cry on. As well as being able to share our own recovery, which can be very encouraging, we also offer advice.
“There are people of every age and from all walks of life. I try to be as positive as possible, which was an approach that helped me to cope when I was having treatment.
“Occasionally, I even find myself taking on my wife’s role and urging those who are showing vague symptoms to visit their GP for a quick check-up.”
Forum members such as Brian really are the heart and soul of Cancer Chat. They go out of their way to help and provide constant reassurance for new members.
Cancer Research UK is only able to provide information services – including Cancer Chat, the CancerHelp UK website and the Nurse Helpline – thanks to generous support from the public. In fact, over a third of the charity’s vital work is funded by gifts in wills. “I would urge anyone in the position to help, to do so by leaving a donation in their will,” says Brian. “Cancer Chat is a wonderful facility and none of us will ever know if we, or someone we hold dear, might need the warmth, comfort and support that it provides.”
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Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins