HOPE and help on the menu at cancer courses

Madeline Friday, who is trying to raise awareness of HOPE courses in Bury St Edmunds and Thetford  Picture Mark Westley
Madeline Friday, who is trying to raise awareness of HOPE courses in Bury St Edmunds and Thetford Picture Mark Westley

Courses which could help cancer patients to get more out of life have a new champion in the form of Madeline Friday.

The breast cancer survivor is raising awareness of Macmillan Cancer Support HOPE courses, aimed at helping people to take control of their health, boost self-esteem and teach relaxation techniques.

The free six-week courses are on this spring in Bury St Edmunds and Thetford, and Macmillan ‘survivorship co-ordinator’ Madeline is encouraging anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis – irrespective of age, sex or stage of treatment – to consider taking part.

“After going through cancer, sometimes people think ‘I have changed’ – their body and the way they feel might be different,” said Madeline.

“The course encourages everybody to set new goals. It helps people to find their own way and gives the mechanism and support for them to be able to make the changes they want.”

Madeline’s involvement with the HOPE course and Macmillan started after her own cancer treatment two-and-a-half years ago.

Initially reluctant to join the course, having returned to work in a senior product innovation and marketing role and feeling HOPE was not for her, she was surprised to find it helped her to return to exercise – a passion she had lost confidence in following her own treatment.

She said: “The group support was the biggest thing HOPE gave to me. Talking to people who had been through the same thing really helped.”

She subsequently applied for the survivorship co-ordinator role, part of which involves running the courses.

“I was working full-time in a senior role and charging around. One of the things you do when you have cancer is re-evaluate. I thought I wanted to give something back and thought that in this role I could help other people as I had been helped,” she said.

Madeline works at the Information and Support Centre at the Macmillan Outpatients Unit, at West Suffolk Hospital. No appointment is needed to access information and support, with Madeline describing it as ‘like a drop-in centre’.

Each HOPE course – four are planned this year – has space for 12 people, but the groups are never at capacity.

“It is a real shame, which is why I am so keen to let people know that the courses are available and what they are all about,” said Madeline.

“The HOPE course helped me so much and I want other people to know about it, as it could help them too.”

One past participant said of HOPE: “It also helps to reverse the negative spiral that cancer can bring and gives positive techniques to take forward.”

Madeline added: “After the last two courses people have carried on meeting up afterwards. So through it they have found future support as well.”

The next course starts in Bury on February 21, at the Quaker Meeting House, in St John’s Street, 10am-12.30pm.

A Thetford course starts on April 18 at the Keystone Innovation Centre.

For more information, contact Madeline or Illa on 01284 713023 or email macmillan.survivorship@wsh.nhs.uk