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Rutland Macmillan Befriending Scheme helps to improve lives

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Event at Victoria Hall to celebrate a year of Macmillan'Photo: Lee Hellwing
Event at Victoria Hall to celebrate a year of Macmillan'Photo: Lee Hellwing

Being diagnosed with cancer can be a frightening and lonely experience, particularly for people living in rural areas like Rutland.

However, thanks to the work of a local support group, many people battling the dreaded disease no longer have to face it on their own.

Started in April last year, the Rutland Macmillan Befriending Scheme has already helped improve the lives of 39 people living with cancer.

The service is available to anyone over the age of 18 who has been affected by the disease and assists by providing companionship, information and support.

Speaking at an event held in Oakham last week to mark the scheme’s one year anniversary, Rutland’s Lord Lieutenant Dr Sarah Furness said: “Most people live in dread of the big C word - cancer.

“Many of us believe it is something which happens to other people, until it happens to someone close to us or ourselves.”

She said the incident rate of all cancers in Rutland was 379.3 per 100,000 people, which was similar to the English average.

“Unfortunately cancer is not uncommon,” she said, adding that studies had shown the most common forms of cancer locally were breast, colorectal and lung.

Dr Furness said that in 2011 more than 15 per cent of the population in Rutland (5,788 people) reported having a long term health condition or disability that limited their day to day activity.

“And 1,048 people were diagnosed with cancer,” she said.

Being diagnosed with the disease could be a “terrifying and isolating” experience, said Dr Furness.

“This can be particularly the case in rural areas such as ours where loneliness, especially amongst the elderly, can cause severe problems anyway.

“A cancer diagnosis exacerbates this loneliness and it is at that very moment when informed, (that) an empathetic company is most needed.

“And that is precisely what the Rutland Macmillan Befriending Scheme provides.”

Elaine Rootham, the Age UK Leicester Shire and Rutland Macmillan volunteer coordinator, said they had already recruited a team of 21 volunteers to assist on the scheme.

“The biggest difference is people living with cancer now have someone local, who can understand the emotional and social impact cancer can have, especially in the rural areas of Rutland,” she said.

Chris Saul, chairman of Trustees of Age UK Leicester Shire and Rutland, said the project was one that “we hold very dear to ourselves”.

He said: “It’s important to us and we consider it to be successful so far. We want it to go from strength to strength.”

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