The role of psychotherapy in cancer care is something that Dimbleby Cancer Care has pioneered over the years primarily through our work with Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London. Dr Margaret Evison – who recently joined the board of Trustees at the charity – initially developed the service which is now offered as an integrated part of cancer care at GSTT. Through the pioneering work of Margaret and her team, psycho-oncology is now recognised throughout the country as an important part of cancer care – the service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ is often held up as a gold standard.
The basis of psycho-oncology is about treating the person as a whole, not just the disease. A cancer diagnosis can affect a patient on many different levels, impacting their lives and the lives of those around them in ways they wouldn’t have expected.
At Dimbleby Cancer Care we recently received a thank you letter from a patient who wanted to pass on her gratitude to the psychotherapist who had helped her through her diagnosis and treatment. Talking about the day she was diagnosed she says, “I really didn’t understand what cancer really meant. I understood the physical damage it had done to my body but I wasn’t at all prepared for cancer echoing aspects of my emotional life”.
At her follow up oncology appointment she was asked by the nurse how she was. Many people are so overwhelmed that often this is an impossible question to answer. But she did. “I told her the truth. I was frightened: frightened of radiotherapy, of chemotherapy, of my children and I ending up on the street. Frightened that I would die.”
She was then referred to the psycho-oncology service at Dimbleby Cancer Care Support and Information Services where she has been attending sessions with one of our therapists, without whom she doesn’t know how she would have otherwise coped.
“[The sessions with the therapist] have been able to get me through the emotional impact of cancer and on a journey that has helped me [find] hope. I initially expected psychotherapy to fix me quickly, however psychotherapy has helped me accept that I had cancer and accept that I can slowly emerge from depression and accept that cancer is a journey that I can begin to recover from not just physically but emotionally too”.
She goes on to say, “The work of the psycho-oncology team is truly invaluable. Without it I know my life would not be as it is now, on what I call the ‘forward road’. Thank you.”
For further information on the services available at Guy’s and St Thomas’ please visit www.dimblebycancercare.org or call 020 7188 7188/5918 or to find out what is available in your own area please contact your local hospital or Citizen’s Advice Bureau.