Cancer self-help programme comes to Oban for first time

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A self-help course on how to manage living with cancer is to begin late spring.

The HOPE (Help to Overcome Problems Effectively) programme has been successful across the UK but this is the first time it will take place in Oban’s Dove Centre.

Its aim is to support cancer patients who have completed treatment but are awaiting results, as this is a time when people are particularly vulnerable and support can be lacking.

Lindsay Davies, who will be leading the HOPE programme alongside Lucy Hunt, calls this the ‘no-man’s land’ of a cancer journey.

She said: ‘[The HOPE programme] will help you get on in day to day life so that your condition really isn’t you; you’re in charge of what’s going on.’

The main focus will be to give attendees the tools to get on with life with a positive outlook.

Ms Davies also hopes that making it a booking-only service will be beneficial to all involved. She describes the lack of enthusiasm that can sometimes occur through GP referrals which can be detrimental to the group dynamics. By booking for themselves, the group will be enthusiastic from the start and everyone will reap the benefits.

Ms Davies said: ‘The strength of the group actually becomes the group themselves.’

Oban is not without self-help groups but they are general and none currently exists specifically for cancer.

Ms Davies added: ‘The bit about it being about cancer is that people are in quite a unique situation that stirs up emotions that a lot of other conditions don’t.

‘I think it’s going to fill a gap which is definitely what the Dove Centre is about.’

There are booking forms in the Oban Medical Centre, Oban Hospice, the Macmillan service in the hospital and it is also advertised on the Dove Centre’s Facebook page.

The group will have about six to eight people and topics covered will include mindfulness, fatigue and goal-setting.

Ms Davies said they were given a lot of autonomy in regard to the range of topics, so they have chosen the widest to appeal to the broadest group of people. She also stressed how the group was life-affirming.

She said: ‘We don’t want people to think that you have to be dying to come through the doors.’

Each session will last two and a half hours and is split into two parts. The first half will be the topic of the week, followed by a tea break and the second half will be for meditation and relaxation.

There is also no medicalisation in the HOPE programme, as it is focused on how to better the individual and not solely about how their condition affects them.

Ms Davies said: ‘Hopefully, through the six weeks the patients will actually get a real sense of support from people that have gone through the same kind of things as each other.

‘There’s no right or wrong time to come and say that you’re interested.’

The programme is run via a combination of effort between Macmillan, NHS Highland and Oban Hospice.