Cancer Care with Brenda Shelley

Before retirement, Brenda Shelley taught in a local high school and she was also an associate lecturer with the Open University. After such a busy working life, Brenda wanted to find some meaningful voluntary work to occupy her retirement years.

We went to meet Brenda to get an insight into her life and the passion for her work… Her love for the NHS and her experience as a carer, took her to work in Ipswich Hospital in the Cancer Information Centre.

She now works there one day a week meeting patients and their carers and provides them with both a listening ear and resources. Brenda is part of a team of dedicated volunteers at the Centre, who provide an invaluable back-up to the Centre Manager, Louise Smith. In addition to her work in the Centre, Brenda is an accredited tutor on two Macmillan HOPE Courses: one for patients and one for carers. Both courses are for 2.5 hours a week and are of 6 weeks duration. The HOPE (Help Overcoming Problems Effectively) Patient Course, which is for people who have completed their treatment, helps patients to develop skills so that they can move on and accept a new ‘ normality’ . There are sessions on fatigue, sleeplessness, diet, exercise, body image, communication, mindfulness, relaxation and visualisation exercises. The courses are very popular and participants find them very worthwhile both for their content but also for the opportunity to meet other patients and to share experiences. The Carers’ Course also provides an opportunity for carers to come together and talk about their experience of caring and it allows them to develop skills to deal with the stresses and strains involved in such caring. Both courses have proved to be very worthwhile for both patients and carers.

The Information Centre offers a wide variety of support groups and activities for anyone affected by cancer such as art works hops, which run every 3 months and these are open to both patients and carers. In the workshop participants can try many different types of art and craft activities and so far these have included ceramics, painting, drawing, jewellery making, printing, decoupage, batik and collage. A Book Group f or patients has also been set up in the last few months and that, like the art workshop, has proved to be very popular. Brenda says that her work in the Centre and on the courses, art workshops and book group is very fulfilling and that she feels privileged to be able to help in this way. Her fellow course facilitators and volunteers in the Centre are another reason why she enjoys her work so much: she says “it is a real pleasure to work with such warm and lovely people, who do their utmost to help and support patients and carers going through a very dark period in their lives.”Brenda invited us along to the centre where we met the incredible staff and one fascinating lady who’ s life has been changed because the volunteers and staff who put their heart and soul into their job.

Eileen endured two bouts of cancer and on each occassion the centre has been a huge support for her personally and physically. It took a while for her to cross over that threshold to get help, however, when she finally made the decision she was overwhelmed by the friendliness and indescrimiate kindness she recieved. To her, the Centre is now part of her family; the volunteers, the staff and fellow patients all have each other to learn from, to confide in and to sometimes simply just have a cuppa with. As well as the incredible HOPE course, which turned her life around, there are also complimentary therapies, like Reiki, counselling and some forms of massage. Brenda runs fabulous art classes and the ever popular book club. Many cancer patients find their memory and focus suffers due to the illness and also due to the chemotherapy, so the book club is a great help to improve these abilities. Eileen says it’ s helped her hugely. For those of you who are worried about your own treatment, who don’ t know who to talk to, who don’ t know what to talk about in regard to your treatment, or perhaps you are a friend or family member of a cancer patient, Eileen has this to say to you:

“I really do encourage you to pop in to the centre, and meet Brenda and the staff here. They are truly magnificent people and I certainly would never be where I am today if it wasn’ t for them…The people here have accepted me into their hearts. It’ s a sanctuary here and once you step over the threshold, you’ ll find friends for life here.”

If you want to know more about the John Le Vay Cancer Information Centre at Ipswich Hospital, please phone 01473 715748.


Photo above, Brenda bottom right with the Cancer Care team.


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The lovely Eileen

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