How the Charis Charity helped our family cope with cancer

A young family from Co Tyrone, who lost their mum to cancer last July, have spoken of the great comfort the family received at Charis Cancer Care. Mum of four, Paddi Begley, was among the 6,000 people who have used Charis Cancer Care since the centre opened eight years ago.

Daughter Laura Begley talks about the family’s experience:

“The reason we required the services of Charis Cancer Care was due to our mother developing and being diagnosed with cancer in October 2014. Throughout that journey, from diagnosis to her leaving this world, Mum and Dad both availed of therapy at Charis, followed by myself and my sisters thereafter.

“Charis is a charity which provides services for everyone affected by cancer, whatever the diagnosis or prognosis. There are over 200 different types of cancer and there is a huge variation in survival between different cancer types. Interestingly, cancer survival in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years.

“I never considered my parents to be elderly. My Mum was diagnosed at the age of 59. She and Dad were at such a content stage of their lives, ready to enjoy time with their children, their grandchildren and their home. Despite their open mindedness and willingness to enjoy life, they were not naturally the type of people to explore alternative therapies or any form of self-help.

“However, when Mum’s first treatment for cancer ended and the reality of the serious side effects from treatment became more apparent, Mum and Dad decided to avail of the services that Charis Cancer Care offer. They found the welcome soothing and of course the location idyllic. I recall them saying how they loved the journey from Dungannon to Lough Fea and having that precious time to themselves. As a family we were aware that time was limited and therefore wanted to be with Mum as much as possible.

“Mum and Dad availed of massage; reflexology and Mum also received some counselling. I remember Mum showing me two excellent books her counsellor had shared with her. Whilst she kept the content of her counselling private from us, I knew that Mum had found a safe haven to reflect upon her diagnosis and prognosis.

“Charis almost walks with you during a difficult and unwanted time in your life. It goes without saying that death and grief is part of everyone’s journey in life and we all try to be brave when we hear about sudden deaths, world tragedies or the deaths of young people, but the loss of a mother brings a different void, she’s simply irreplaceable. During Mum’s illness and passing, as is the case for many other cancer and grief survivors, life felt like a continuous battle, trying to present a brave face with a pain in your heart. Whilst friends and extended family are dedicated in their concern and provided loving offers of support, for me, it took Charis to realise I needed a little extra support. At the end stage of Mum’s life and within days of her passing, it transpired that all four of her daughters – Connie, Laura, Marsha and Claire – had contacted Charis.

“On arrival to Charis, I remember being overcome with grief and emotion. My first instinct was to run away. However, remaining at Charis was the best the decision I ever made. I don’t recall exactly how it happened, it must have been down to the skills of Imelda, Charis Cancer Care Centre’s Director, that we were each signed up to treatments that very day! I am so glad we were. My counsellor was excellent; a true professional! I unravelled so many veins of thought and misplaced anger and guilt. Without the support of Charis, I really think my sisters and I would have overcomplicated the grieving process.

“The massages and reflexology were also important for promoting self-care and providing warm, soothing calmness. The counselling and treatments combined are an effective way for a family member to deal with the shock of a cancer diagnosis and importantly they offer a welcome escape for the person with the diagnosis who is on that challenging journey.”

Laura adds: “The first number of weeks without a mother is the most challenging. In the absence of having my Mum put the kettle on and tell me everything was going to be okay with one of her smiles, Charis Cancer Care was the place that provided me with those feelings of comfort. I also get a sense of comfort from a visit to Charis. My sisters and I all find the location peaceful and we can picture Mum and Dad spending many happy times here.”

The charity which supports people in Northern Ireland affected by cancer is planning an expansion that will almost double the size of the centre as it aims to offer greater numbers of cancer patients and those impacted by cancer, complementary support and therapies.

Charis Cancer Care works in conjunction with clinical treatments for cancer. Comfortable treatment rooms are designed for the delivery of complementary therapies by trained practitioners. Support ranges from counselling services and dietary advice, right through to offering treatments such as reflexology and massage, all of which are provided free of charge.

Fundraising plans to support the expansion of the centre are well underway. According to Charis Cancer Care Board Trustee Jarlath Conway: “The new facility will provide two new treatment rooms for the delivery of complementary therapies by trained practitioners, one counselling room, one beauty therapy room, one rest room and additional office space.

“We are delighted with the vision for the new centre and the difference it will make for the people who will avail of the services there. Charis does not receive government funding and relies exclusively on support from the local community and businesses to raise funds. The annual running costs for the centre are currently in the region of £300,000. I can’t thank all our current donors enough. Their generosity makes a massive difference to people’s quality of life and well-being.”

Imelda McGucken, Director of Charis Cancer Centre explains the importance of person centred care: “We are delighted to announce that Charis Cancer Care has retained its 5* rating as a Macmillan Quality Environment. The results were announced this month. The Macmillan Quality Environment Mark (MQEM) is a detailed quality framework used for assessing whether cancer care environments meet the standards required by people living with cancer. Centres are assessed on the following: design and use of Space; the user’s journey; service experience and the user’s voice.”

Veronica Morris, Director of Fundraising at Charis Cancer Care adds:

“With the new extension, Charis can broaden the services offered to patients coping with diagnosis, detection and treatment. Our programme has been designed to complement rather than replace orthodox cancer treatments with the aim of providing physical, psychological and emotional support through the relief of symptoms.

“Over 6,000 people have accessed Charis’ services to date. Highly trained therapists and tutors work with the person as a whole, ensuring they benefit from advice and treatments which are free of charge to everyone at point of need.”

Should you wish to become a volunteer at Charis Cancer Care or make a donation to Charis to support cancer patients, their families and those bereaved with cancer, please contact Director of Fundraising Veronica Morris on T: 028 8676 9217 or E. . All donations go straight to the charity.



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