Trevor Wightman from Richhill in County Armagh lost his wife, the late Carol Wightman (Connor) aged 55, to metastatic cancer. Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells to new areas of the body often by way of the lymph system or bloodstream.
Trevor shares his story: “My wife battled with cancer for three years and during that time, as a couple, we availed of the services of Charis Cancer Care.
“I think men in particular often reject any form of counselling or therapy. Initially, I reeled against the idea of receiving help from anyone but then it suddenly struck me, ‘What would happen if I got sick, who would look after my wife?’ I was not only a husband; I was also a friend and carer.
“The cancer journey is a challenging one and sometimes you can feel very lonely. For me Charis was a lifeline at these times.
“Many people don’t realise that cancer patients are faced with numerous medical appointments. You can feel like a hamster on a wheel and when the last hospital appointment occurs, you’re in a place where you’re simply lost and don’t know what to do or where to go.
“My visits to Charis calmed me emotionally. I took time out to recharge my batteries in the company of people who have become dear friends. I had real difficulty sleeping and I found that treatments such as reflexology helped me get my sleeping pattern back on an even keel. The treatments coupled with the conversations over coffee shared with those facing similar life struggles have been a critical part of the journey.”
Trevor continues: “Losing a loved one can be a devastating blow, and the emotion which ensues may become overwhelming. The sense of grief can feel immense, especially in the early weeks or months after the death of a much loved partner, friend or family member. It can lead to a range of negative reactions including lethargy, self-neglect, inability to concentrate, and anger taken out on other people.
“All of this is a normal response to bereavement, and there is no timeframe for the grieving process. The team at Charis, led by Centre Director Imelda McGucken, provided me with much needed support when my wife passed away. Bereavement counselling helped me move towards a point where I was able to function normally again, and focus on other things while remembering my wife without experiencing undue distress.”
Charis Cancer Care 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. Delivered by trained practitioners, support ranges from counselling services and dietary advice, right through to offering treatments such as reflexology and massage. These work in conjunction with clinical treatments for cancer and are all 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 earlier this year. 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. 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.
“Over 6,000 people have accessed Charis’ services to date. For anyone who may not be familiar with Charis Cancer Care or what we provide, the charity was established to support people who are affected by cancer, their family members and families who have been bereaved through cancer”.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org . All donations go straight to the charity.