When Alistair Lawrie was diagnosed with lung cancer he feared the worst. But now, over 12 years on, he is enjoying life more than ever and is a man determined to do what he can to raise awareness of lung cancer and to support others going through a similar situation.
Alistair, 72, from Hemel Hempstead said: “When I was first diagnosed with cancer I didn’t get any support for weeks, either from the hospital or my GP, and with the low survival rates at the time I became clinically depressed.
“Halfway through my treatment and with my depression getting worse my wife, Eileen, came running into the room with a force like an earthquake shouting, ‘I can’t do it on my own’. That was really the big push that I needed. So I got up, had a shower and a shave and my recovery started from that point. I was even back working part time after a few weeks.
“A few years after my diagnosis I was invited by the hospital to a lung cancer support group and had the chance to meet others who had similar conditions.”
The Garston lung cancer and mesothelioma support group, which was founded by a nurse from West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, meets on the first Tuesday of every month and is open to anyone affected by lung cancer or the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. The group supports about 60 patients, relatives, friends and carers, offering people the chance to swap stories and support each other.
The group is run with support from cancer nurse specialists from West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and volunteers from the Macmillan cancer information centre based at Watford Hospital. Over the seven years since they started the group they have organised a wide range of guest speakers and topics including oncologists (specialist cancer doctors), physiotherapists, solicitors for help and advice on making wills, healthy walking, nutrition and lifestyles, holidays and beauty.
Alistair says: “I am so pleased that the Trust set up this group, it changed my total outlook on my situation, especially at the first meeting when I met someone who had survived the condition for 19 years. One of the great things about the group is we can all be totally honest with each other; we welcome new people and try to help them come to terms with their condition. It’s great to see them walk away with open expectations and hope for their future. I find that hope can be life changing not only for the person with the condition but for their partners and families as well.
“I have seen a huge improvement in cancer services since my diagnosis, and have helped the hospital by being involved in consumer feedback groups to make further improvements to the services provided.
The cancer nurse specialists (CNS) are exceptional; they really are an amazing team.
They always go above and beyond their clinical duties. The team make themselves available at any time. The Trust should be proud of the service it now offers its cancer patients compared to when I was first diagnosed.
This initiative is extremely effective for patients, and at a minimal cost to the Trust. This is the NHS at its best; I don’t think it could perform any better.
“I would say to anyone diagnosed with lung cancer to try to stay positive and always hope for the future. There is always someone out there going through a similar situation who would be willing to talk to you.
“I have learned to live with cancer, there is no reason to stop living my life and I hope others find courage and optimism from reading my story.”
The Macmillan Lung Cancer CNS team can be contacted on telephone: 01923 217010.
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