01480 416410 aburridge@nhs.net


Living with Cancer and Beyond Patient Conference


Are you undergoing cancer treatment or living beyond diagnosis?

If so, then this FREE CONFERENCE is for YOU!

Our aim is to keep you up to date with information on cancer research, knowledge and care, emotional well-being, diet and exercise and all are delivered by experts in their fields.

Our sessions are interactive and relaxed with plenty of opportunities to share your experiences with people who understand.


  • This year we are using Zoom if you’ve not used it before we will send you instructions on how to and get the best from our conference.
  • We are holding two practice sessions on Monday, 2nd November 2020.
  • We will also be able to loan you a device with Zoom already installed if one is required.
  • There will be technical help available on the day.

Booking for our conference is now open!

Places are limited and free so we suggest early booking is advisable.


Click here to for the agenda.


Click here to book your place.


A warm welcome awaits you!

We hold 2 conferences a year which are free to attend and designed to empower you with appropriate information in the world of cancer. 

Our aim is to keep you up to date with information on cancer research, knowledge and care, emotional well-being, diet and exercise and all are delivered by experts in their fields. They are interactive and relaxed with plenty of opportunities to share your experiences with people who understand.

 Please contact Amanda on aburridge@nhs.net for details and to book.

NB– we would very much like to make sure that we are answering YOUR questions and not just using our own ideas, so if you have any particular questions or needs that need addressing, especially in relationship to the topics above – PLEASE send them to  this email address :- gill@hccnthecharity.org and we’ll do the best we can and get them to the speakers.

14th May 2019 at Huntingdon Race Course.

The agenda we used is below: (please click on each page to enlarge)

The speakers on the day were:

Dr Hannah Thompson

Chief Operating Officer, Cambridge Cancer Genomics

“Acting sooner when tumours change”

Tony Elliott

Carers Trust, Cambridgeshire

“The work of the Carers Trust”

Dr Sam Smith

Academic Fellow, Yorkshire Cancer Research, University of Leeds

“Fact versus Fiction : – public awareness of risk factors for cancer”

Tony Elliott and his colleague Gemma, from the Carers Trust
  • Tony and Gemma told us about how the Trust had started in 1974 as an organisation called “Crossroads” to support carers. This merged with the Princes Trust in 2012, to cover Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk.
  • Their ethos is to talk to individuals, local groups and organisations and make sure that everyone knows their rights as a carer, can make choices and knows where to go for help.
  • A carer can be defined as anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support.
  • Young carers are under the age of 18 who take on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.
  • Caring can cover a whole range of practical help such as washing, dressing, cooking, shopping, collecting medicines but also, increasingly, providing emotional support.
  • The Trust runs courses for young carers to help them cope with dealing with household expenses, bills etc.
  • Most carers fall into the age group 50-64, 72% of them find that they have to reduce the amount of exercise they can take as a result of their caring role. Few carers are aware of their rights and the Trust talks to employers about identifying carers in their businesses and enabling them to get support.
  • It is estimated that there are over 6.5 million carers in the UK and this number will rise. They tend to be slow to identify themselves as carers and need to do so much sooner. It is estimated that £132 billion is saved for the NHS by the existence of unpaid carers.
  • The negative impacts of being a carer include physical and mental stress, guilt, isolation and for young carers, struggling with school work, loss of friends and sometimes the loss of opportunity to go to university. On the positive side there can be great closeness as a result of the caring relationship.
  • The Trust runs a “What if” plan where all the normal routine, access to the house and general information is registered with the Trust so they know what to do if something happens, such as the carer being ill/ injured. 24hrs emergency aid is provided by the Trust.
  • The Trust provides days out and trips for young carers to give them a break. Their services also include :- support groups, yoga, reflexology, mindfulness and they provide CSNAT (Carers Support Needs Assessment Tool) which can lead to short term respite care for the carers.
  • The 3 hospitals in the Trust’s area are Hinchingbrooke, Peterborough and Addenbrookes. The Trust attends regular Carers Strategy meetings at the hospitals, provides carer awareness sessions for staff and tries to maintain consistency in carer strategy. There is a “listening ear” project which provides someone to talk to and “unload”.
  • What can we do ? – try to make sure that people are prepared, know their rights and choices and where to find help, particularly the Carers Trust.
  • Advice – always identify yourself as a carer when you go into a hospital as there are “carer passports” that can help.
Dr Hannah Thompson from Cambridge Cancer Genomics on “The Future of Cancer Treatment”
  • Hannah gave us a fascinating summary of their work, which involves developing new blood tests for markers that will enable more specifically tailored chemotherapy for each patient.
  • At the moment 1st line chemotherapy fails for 2 out of 3 cancer patients, even genomically matched targeted therapies still fail for 1 out of 3 people.
  • 10-25% of people refuse treatments, partly, presumably, because the side effects can outweigh the sometimes low chance of a positive outcome of treatment.
  • So their mission is to get the right treatment – at the right time – to beat the cancer.
  • Hannah explained briefly the mechanics of DNA and protein synthesis and defined genomics for us as :- “How your genes affect your life and why some people respond to certain drugs or treatments and others do not”
  • The aim is to do solid tumour biopsies and then follow up blood samples to monitor progress.
  • Cancers are made up of different groups of cells as the original mutation that created a cancer in the first place may give rise to multiple types of cells and it is necessary to monitor all these different types and their sensitivity to the drug combination being used.


Different types of treatment are :-

Surgical – cutting the tumour out. This may leave a few cells behind and then the cancer may relapse and metastasise or the original tumour will regrow.

Chemotherapy  – a toxic therapy that will kill all rapidly dividing cells regardless of their molecular patterns.

Targeted therapy – kills all the cells with a particular mutation, most of the tumour dies but some cells may still remain and some can mutate to a different type of cell.


After diagnosis patients often get a CT scan of the affected area to determine the volume of their tumour alongside a solid tissue biopsy, which samples a portion of the tumour. This is used to determine which treatment would be best.

Patients then wait 6 months before another CT scan is done. If the tumour has shrunk the treatment is deemed successful.


However during drug treatment some cells can develop drug resistance. Hannah’s team can look for fragments of DNA in a patient’s blood and use these to model how the tumour is changing, when current drugs are likely to fail and when new drugs are likely to work.

All cells shed DNA into the bloodstream. Circulating tumour DNA is only about 1% of the total DNA in the blood, so it is very difficult to detect.


Ideally the aim is to monitor – every 2 weeks or so – how the DNA fragments in the circulation change so that the drug regime can be constantly adapted to allow for mutations. This should hopefully allow the group to predict which patients will survive best on which treatments and why. Volunteers are needed to undergo these biopsies and blood tests so that a data base of responses of specific genomic types to specific drugs can be built up. All this data will be analysed by computer to predict clinical outcomes and should improve the responses to chemotherapy in the future.


Dr Sam Smith , an academic fellow from Leeds University. “Fact versus Fiction, public awareness of the risks for cancer.”
  • Cancer survival has doubled in the last 40 years – BUT the incidence of cancer is increasing.
  • 40% of cancer cases are attributable to known risk factors with tobacco usage topping the list at 15%, obesity comes second at 6% and is rising. UV radiation, occupational factors, infections, alcohol and insufficient fibre are all at approx 3% with a host of minor causes below this.
  • Unfortunately, knowing that something is a risk does not necessarily stop people from using /doing it !
  • In surveys many people thought that a lot of the known factors were more likely to cause heart disease than cancer.
  • A reliable tool is needed to assess public awareness of cancer as current research into perception of risk uses many incorrect risk factors. It generally relies on researcher intuition. Public awareness campaigns are difficult to evaluate.
  • After a lot of properly validated research into incorrect beliefs and asking 13 health professionals to list the incorrect beliefs of which they were aware, the following 12 incorrect beliefs were identified as the commonest. Stress was the highest, at over 40% then decreasingly, food additives, electro-magnetic frequencies, GM food, artificial sweeteners, power lines, mobile phones, aerosols, physical trauma, cleaning products, microwave ovens and lastly – drinking from plastic bottles – with 20% of the population believing that this can cause cancer ! There is currently no evidence at all that any of these can cause cancer.
  • Correct knowledge of actual causes was higher among people with – white ethnicity, post 16 qualifications and healthier lifestyles.
  • Correct knowledge of cancer myths was higher among – younger groups, men, white ethnicity, North of England v South, unhealthier life styles.


So, in summary, there are a lot of false beliefs about what can actually cause cancer and some of these false beliefs could be affecting the way people live and make decisions about cancer. More public awareness of the facts would be ideal.

There were also our “break out” groups:

  • Sleep – Sallie Crawley – gave a very popular presentation on how to relax and get a decent rest. She told us about the sleep course she is running.
  • Reflexology – Julie Grint – told us all about how reflexology can help us to relax and how to use some simple techniques on ourselves with pressure points around that head and hands – NOT just the feet !
  • MacMillan Welfare Rights – Sharon Jones – gave us useful financial information about how to appreciate and get the best from the MacMillan charity.
  • Wigs – Lisa Jefferson – brought a wonderful selection of wigs and demonstrated what can be done for people undergoing treatment experiencing the upsetting symptoms of hair loss and how really good they can feel and look with a professionally fitted wig.

Finally we had a last minute addition from:-

Darren and Danielle from One Leisure Active Lifestyles.

Our original Get Active demo was sadly not possible and it was wonderful that Darren and Danielle jumped in at VERY short notice to tell us about what they offer. (They were attending anyway, with an info stand but it was very good to hear more from them.)

They are trained in level 4 cancer therapy and run two courses specifically for cancer patients. These are aimed at improving self confidence, well being and mobility. Fatigue can be a huge problem when trying to return to a normal life after cancer and there is a need to stabilise energy levels.

The courses are free to One Leisure members and cost £3.70 per hour to others. They are held in the centres at St Ives and St Neots. Classes include a warm up, high intensity exercise for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds +/- some circuits or other exercise. There is also water aerobics which is particularly low impact and good for lymphoedema.

Danielle concluded with a few very simple coordination and stand-sit exercises to get our blood flowing again after a long day spent seated !

We had a fantastic lunch, with tea & coffee throughout the day and we would like to thank Janet for her excellent raffle as always!

6th November 2018 at Huntingdon Race Course.

The agenda we used is below: (please click on each page to enlarge)

Time to chat before the speakers joined us.

The speakers on the day were:

Dr Oana C Lindner

Dr Oana C Lindner

Research Fellow, Division of Psychological and Social Medicine, Leeds University Institute of Health Sciences.

Oana spoke on the “Complexities of life after cancer – the new journey.”

Dr Sally Carding

Dr Sally Carding

Consultant Palliative Medicine Hinchingbrooke Hospital. St Johns Hospice, Sue Ryder and Moggerhanger.

Sally’s subject was “Palliative care explained.

Professor Robert Thomas

Professor Robert Thomas

Consultant Oncologist - Bedford and Addenbrookes Cambridge University Trusts

There were also our new addition “break out” groups:

  • Annie Thantrey told us about the brilliant programme she runs at the Holistic Drop in Centre in Ellington on Tuesdays.
  • Cherie Luckman relaxed us all beautifully with her lovely Yoga group.
  • Penny Cook talked about Physiotherapy in cancer rehabilitation
  • Andrea Cliff and Maureen Hayden from the nursing team provided easy nutritious snacks for people to make at home.

The conference ended with A Tai Chi demonstration delivered by people from Hunts Community Cancer Network who are learning Tai Chi together under the guidance of Dmitry Sokolik.

Click the corner (where there is a plus sign) to open and read the transcripts below:

Complexities of Life After Cancer - The New Journey - Dr Oana C Lindner

Dr Oana C Lindner

  • Research Fellow, Division of Psychological and Social Medicine, Leeds University
  • Institute of Health Sciences.


Dr Oana spoke on her work using an electronic questionnaire and electronic self-reporting for patients after diagnosis and treatment to ensure that symptoms and side effects are not forgotten.

  • After diagnosis and chemotherapy it is essential to find a “new normal”
  • Challenges are those of “Survivorship”
    • Symptoms and late effects, physical, emotional and cognitive
    • Pragmatic – juggling work, family, home and hospital appointments.

PHYSICAL – incl side effects of chemotherapy.

  • eRAPID – used in Leeds, is an electronic means of self reporting adverse effects.

It has a 5 year trial period and is currently mainly addressed to people with gastro-intestinal and pelvic cancers.

People can report in on their mobile phones and the advice and treatment can then be tailored to match symptoms, severity and what people need.

It is based on an electronic questionnaire called “Qtool” to which the clinical team also have access so that they can pick up on any symptoms, even though people might have forgotten them.

Another similar project called ePRIME has now started in Yorkshire. It mainly involves follow up of people with ovarian cancer and people on trials of new drugs.

The challenges for all these projects are : –



Following a cancer diagnosis 20-30% patients have :-

  • Clinical depression and anxiety
  • Fear of recurrence
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairments such as memory and attention span. This is very much related to fatigue
  • How severe people perceive their condition to be.


This is very difficult to quantify.

In Dr Oana’s study :-

  • Group average age of 36 yrs, 50% female
  • 2.7yrs post treatment
  • Asked how depressed or cognitively affected they were.

Quality of Life was affected by illness perceptions such as :-

  • “how do I feel ?”
  • “do I have control?”
  • “how sad, tired or apprehensive am I?”
  • “What is the severity and duration of my illness ?”


  • Finding it hard to “engage”
  • Lost for words
  • Hard to keep up with the conversation
  • Impact of these on the quality of life

These all lead to people avoiding social situations, isolation and your family and friends all just want you to be back to normal.

How can you get back to work again ?

A lot of research on this has been done on brain tumours and central nervous system directed treatment.


  • Try to determine the nature, extent, strength and weaknesses of any IMPAIRMENTS.
  • This was measured by the ability to remember a poem and retaining it till the next day.
  • Great individual variation between people in these skills.
  • How long do these impairments last ?
  • There is no evidence that they lead to premature brain ageing.
  • They ARE affected by age, education and socio-economic group.

Dr Oana emphasised that the problems of research into these topics were considerable due to the variability of symptoms and the difficulty of getting objective measurements. Symptoms were difficult to quantify and it was very hard to determine whether cognitive changes were due to drug side effects or psychological factors.

Research in the past has concentrated far more on the physical effects of chemotherapy on bodily function and later on emotional changes including depression. There is a need for more work on the effects on cognition.


  • Study in Leeds followed shared community follow up for people with germ cell tumours.
  • Ideally this was a comprehensive, tailored, holistic aftercare
  • Xrays should be delivered at regional centres
  • Blood samples collected in the community
  • CT scans done yearly in hospital
  • Use of the Qtool online for follow up to record symptoms

All these enabled a more specific focused help available from the nurses. To get the right support it is necessary to :-

  • Monitor and report symptoms
  • Use social networks such as HCCN
  • Focus on a good quality of exercise diet and sleep
  • Get help to remain active and optimise advocacy

QUESTIONS for Dr Oana threw up the issue that all the above may be influenced by whether the care is curative or palliative. A tip for minimising the effect on cognitive function was to try to get back to normal gradually, not take on too much or expect too much from yourself.

Above all – DON’T BE AFRAID to admit to problems and ask the professionals for help

Palliative Care Explained - Dr Sally Carding

Dr Sally Carding

  • Consultant Palliative Medicine, Hinchingbrooke Hospital
  • St Johns Hospice, Sue Ryder, Moggerhanger

Dr Sally reminded us at the start that the meaning of palliative care is to care for the whole person with respect for personal choices and relief of suffering (physical, emotional and spiritual)

A quote from Dame Cicely Saunders – the founder of the hospice movement:

“You matter because you are you – and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully but also to LIVE until you DIE.”

Dr Sally took great pains to dispel the following myths surrounding palliative care:

  • It’s only for people who have cancer
  • It means I am dying
  • It means my doctor has given up and there is no hope for me
  • I will get pain now I am palliative
  • Taking pain medication in palliative care means I will be addicted

It may well be that the oncologist has no further surgery/chemo/radiotherapy to offer, but that does not mean that they are giving up on you as a person ! You do NOT need to worry about getting addicted to pain relief, if you need it, you can have it.


  • Symptom management eg nausea, constipation
  • Advance care planning ie helping you to make informed decisions
  • Signposting – where to go for whatever you need
  • Psychological support
  • “Deathwifery” – preparing you for what is to come, removing the fear of death and dying
  • Bereavement care

Dr Sally shared a few sample case histories with us, to illustrate the type of patients who require palliative care. These varied from needing short term control of pain to help to make future care decisions and making sure that peoples’ choices are respected at all times.


Do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR)

It is vital to have the correct forms at home stating your wishes concerning this point, to avoid being “whisked” off to hospital. Bear in mind that real life resuscitation (CPR) actually IN hospital is only about 12% effective. A cardiac arrest in hospital will only give you a 15-20% chance of survival to discharge. 

Preferred priorities of care

There are forms which you can fill in online to express your wishes about this. You should also discuss this in advance with a health professional.

Advance decision to refuse treatment

This is an important legal document stating clearly which treatments you wish to refuse. To be legal it needs to be signed and witnessed. 

Lasting power of attorney

There are 2 types – (1) health and welfare and (2) financial. They involve nominating a person to make decisions concerning the above, on your behalf IF you no longer have capacity to do so yourself. It is a legal document and must be registered with the Public Guardian. It costs about £82 to set up.


This term – an odd one ! – but, as Dr Sally explained, it contrasts the process of leaving the world with the process of entering it. The two have a lot in common in that they require preparation and anticipation, seeing life as a “fatal condition”, understanding the whole process and how it normally progresses.

Both processes also need decisions to be taken in advance about who will be involved in care, how it will take place, who knows the plan and who gets to choose in a crisis.


Hunts Specialist Palliative Care Team (SPCT)

This consists of 2 consultants –

  • Dr Sally Carding and Dr Annalise Matthews, both of whom work at Hinchingbrooke and Moggerhanger.
  • 8 specialist nurses
  • 1 occupational therapist
  • A triage phone is manned 9-5 Mon- Fri
  • There is an outpatient clinic at the Woodlands Centre, Hinchingbrooke.

HCCN Palliative care team

The 8 HCCN nurses support patients with cancer who are undergoing palliative or curative treatment, in their homes if at all possible. HCCN and SPCT are all based at Woodlands and liaise closely about their patients, so there should be a seamless hand over from one team to the other when required.


Hospices offer specialist palliative care to patients with a life-limiting illness. They have a multidisciplinary team. Inpatient care is available for symptom control (such as lymphoedema) and end of life care. Day care therapy is also a part of what they do. The average stay is about 2weeks and it is most definitely NOT a one way trip – people go home again after pain control is achieved. Other hospices such as Arthur Rank near Cambridge and Thorpe Hall near Peterborough offer an overnight “hospice at home” service. There is also some overnight Marie Curie nurse care available.


  • “With the End in Mind – Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial” by Kathryn Mannix
  • “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

Both very good

Dr Sally summed up by reiterating that palliative care can be relevant:

  • Right from the diagnosis because nothing can be done – NOT necessarily meaning that death is imminent – people can be on palliative care for many years.
  • Much further down the road when disease has progressed


Some people expressed anxiety that they had experienced relatives or friends going into hospital with a DNAR notice and it being ignored by the medical staff. Dr Sally said that this situation was very undesirable and hopefully would be an issue less and less in the future.

Lifestyle & Cancer - An Update - Profesor Robert Thomas

Professor Robert Thomas

Consultant Oncologist, Bedford and Addenbrookes Cambridge University Trusts

Professor Thomas emphasised that there is an overload of information on diet and exercise after a cancer diagnosis and it is very confusing indeed for patients who don’t know what they can trust.cancernet.co.uk and keep-healthy.com are sites that have blogs and info about lifestyle choices relating to health and cancer in particular.

Prof Thomas’s own book “Lifestyle and Cancer” is a good source also. One tip was to try to avoid multiple drugs to sort out symptoms after cancer treatment – use more natural remedies such as flax seed and lots of water for constipation, more exercise for blood pressure problems.


3-5 hours per week has been shown to result in a slower progression of the disease and a 20-30% lower relapse rate. Walking football is a really good option and has been shown to reduce symptoms in prostate cancer. The choice of an appropriate exercise is important eg – you need a weight bearing exercise to help with osteoporosis, swimming would be no good.

Due to the 180 biochemical changes in the body after exercise we see –

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased immunity
  • A decrease in excess insulin
  • An increase in the expression of “good” genes
  • A decrease in the expression of “bad” genes
  • A decrease in testosterone or oestrogen which are anti-oxidants.

It has been shown that having weak muscles leads to a poorer response to cancer treatment so exercise benefits your prognosis.

Other LIFESTYLE FACTORS to consider:

  • Sun exposure, some is beneficial
  • Try to reduce smoking and alcohol intake
  • Eat calcium rich foods
  • Eat vitamin K2 rich foods
  • Eat polyphenol rich foods
  • Eat plant based proteins


  • Ensure a healthy gut
  • Take healthy probiotic bacteria
  • Try 13hours overnight fasting – this lowers levels of glycated haemoglobin (a cancer marker), it
  • Lowers inflammatory markers and leads to a 36% lower risk of recurrence (in breast cancer)
  • Take regular exercise eg walk before breakfast.
  • Reduce intake of processed sugar
  • Too high a level of sugar in the morning leads to weight gain because it can contribute to insulin
  • Resistance leading to type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, increased oxidative stress, fatigue and joint pains. It is also less satiating and so it’s better to eat slow release carbohydrates in the morning if possible eg oat porridge/ nuts/ fresh fruit/ puffed buckwheat – LOW sugar !

Many studies have shown that intake of a high sucrose diet, overweight and inactivity lead to a higher prevalence of bowel and pancreatic cancer. A study is currently in progress on whether having sugar in tea leads to a greater incidence of cancer.

POLYPHENOLS are very important to reduce the glycemic index and can be found in nuts, fresh fruits and legumes. Polyphenols can reduce joint and muscle pain, they can increase recovery and performance. Creams containing polyphenols have reduced nail damage (oncholysis) sometimes seen after chemotherapy. There is a study in progress to see if cancer can be held at bay by polyphenol rich foods, results hopefully next year.

POMI-T (pomi-t.co.uk)

Capsule containing pomegranate, green tea, broccoli and turmeric (high in polyphenols). This supplement has been shown to reduce PSA levels and there was a positive correlation between the reduction in tumour size and reduced PSA levels in a paper by Prof Thomas.

CHRONIC INFLAMMATION leads to cancer, fatigue, irritable bowel, low mood and depression, arthritis, diabetes, increased cholesterol, heart disease, hypertension, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Inflammation is reduced by nuts, legumes, exercise, healthy bacteria and polyphenols. Kefir, miso soup and live yoghurt all help to promote “good” bacteria, reduce the inflammatory index and have anti-oxidant effects.


Lots of hospitals are now giving probiotics before a patient is admitted as they increase the effect of cancer drugs, reduce the effects of stress, lead to a greater absorption of polyphenols and increase immunity.

More probiotics should be given during –

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Travelling
  • Admission to hospital
  • Flu season
  • Intense exercise


PRE and PROBIOTICS help improve “good” gut bacteria and reduce “bad” bacteria thus improving polyphenol absorption. DON’T take vitamin and mineral supplements unless specifically prescribed – they can make things worse.

Prof Thomas quoted several case histories of people with cancer who had been helped by a change of diet to one using the food stuffs discussed above. Recurrence of the cancer had been markedly reduced in several of them, particularly when used in conjunction with a regular exercise regime and stopping smoking.

All in all – the overwhelming message was EAT HEALTHILY and EXERCISE !

25th April 2018 at Huntingdon Race Course.

The agenda we used is below: (please click on each page to enlarge)

In introducing the topics for the day, Karen explained that the content is carefully chosen as cancer brings with it many emotional issues and physical changes – not all of which are easily addressed in the home through conversations with loved ones. Bringing together specialists to explore and facilitate those more difficult conversations in a very down to earth way can be valuable, allowing them to be developed later at home and with the nursing team.

Managing Intimate Relationships after cancer

This was the perfect introduction to Karen Gardiner, Managing Director of Purple Orchid who led an engaging session on Managing Intimate Relationships after cancer. Purple Orchid is called the women’s self-care company rather than health-care company as they are committed to the idea of looking after ourselves better to enjoy good health for longer in life. Self-care is about being proactive, making decisions about what’s best for us not just during medical treatment but before we even need it, possibly to avoid it. Thus her message resonated strongly with everything HCCN knows about lifestyle and cancer. Maintaining healthy habits on an everyday basis means our bodies are getting the best possible chance to become and stay healthy and strong. Balanced nutrition, adequate physical activity and avoiding toxins such as nicotine and alcohol prepare the body for the challenges it faces every day.

Purple Orchid specialises in the area of women’s health which is “above the knee, below the waist and at the front”– that’s the bit people least want to discuss. When active treatment has finished, some survivors’ needs change and relationships may shift. A significant number of cancer patients will experience physical, emotional and psychological changes to their intimate relationships. Your thoughts and feelings about your own sexuality, sexual intercourse and intimacy may change and open honest communication is essential. Some symptoms such as vaginal atrophy, radiation cystitis and vaginal shortening, tightening and pain during intercourse can be addressed with Purple Orchid products. A good psychosexual counsellor can also help couples rediscover their intimate relationship with each other.

Describing a range of products to help with such physical issues, Karen came with free samples which certainly brought smiles to many faces. Two in particular:

  • Vaginal dryness is a relatively simple condition with the product Hyalofemme as a simple solution. Hyalofemme is a hormone free, effective and well accepted solution for all women who experience vaginal dryness.
  • Gepan instill has demonstrated good clinical results with bladder problems such as interstitial cystitis, overactive bladder syndrome, radiation cystitis and chronically recurring cystitis.

Then came the opportunity to touch and feel some vaginal dilators supplied by Pleasure Solutions. Pleasure Solutions works closely with both medical professionals and people who’ve experienced health issues to design safe, sensory sex tools that help you to connect with your body. Embracing the changes in intimacy can be one of the most challenging parts of feeling ‘you’ again.

Macmillan recognises that around 350,000 people in the UK experience sexual consequences due to cancer and its treatment. The topic of sex after cancer can be neglected by medical professionals – but your HCCN nurses are now equipped to discuss these issues and help in practical ways. Nurse Karen is investigating how people requiring these products can obtain them through the NHS.



Memories Are Made Of This

Next, our very own Marion Foreman – in her own style – challenged us with ‘If you knew when it was coming, would you do anything differently?’. The ‘it’ being your death:

Her lively presentation looked at death from a number of angles. She included a Dean Martin song, a BBC video made by Kathryn Mannix (a palliative care doctor) and a poem from Helen Dunmore.


She went on to tell us the inspiring story of George Monbiot, a columnist with The Guardian, recently diagnosed with prostate cancer who applies three principles which he believes sit at the heart of a good life. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/13/prostate-cancer-happy-diagnosis-operation

In closing, Marion summarised her message as:

If you want to be remembered as a miserable git – go ahead

But if we want to be remembered as loving and kind – here is our opportunity

Every day we have a choice – make the most of it

Write that letter, make that phone call

Tell that person how much they mean to you

Leave behind your love – the world will benefit


Nutrition for Health and Wellness

After lunch, Julia Wolman, Public Health Engagement Manager joined us from the World Cancer Research Fund, which is the UK’s leading cancer prevention charity. They fund global research into the links between diet, weight, physical activity and cancer. Their work empowers people to take action to lead healthier, happier, cancer-free lives – the message HCCN believes we should all hear in relation to nutrition and well-being. Julia brought a wide range of information leaflets, health guides, recipe books, and more.

She began her session by describing the WCRF’s Continuous Update Project – which analyses the latest evidence on a range of cancers and produces key findings and reports – global research on preventing cancer. They analyse the research so we have access to the best cancer prevention advice in the world. https://www.wcrf.org/int/continuous-update-project/continuous-update-project-findings-reports

She then became quiz master and took us through an enjoyable test of our knowledge on a range of ‘facts’ about diet, maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity. https://www.wcrf.org/int/continuous-update-project/our-cancer-prevention-recommendations


Break out groups

Later in the afternoon, we had for the first time at conference an opportunity to move into smaller, ‘break out’ groups that demonstrated the range of skills and activities that the HCCN team can offer.

What Is Acupuncture? – Karen Moseley and Harriet Da Costa

Acupuncture treatment involves fine needles being inserted through the skin and left in position briefly. The number of needles varies and treatment may be once a week initially then at longer intervals as the condition responds. A typical course of treatment lasts 5-8 sessions. Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in the skin, muscle and other tissues and can produce a variety of effects. We know that it increases the release of the body’s natural painkillers, including endorphin and serotonin. Acupuncture can do more than simply reduce pain. Current research shows that acupuncture can have an effect on many of the body’s systems – the nervous system, muscle tone, hormone production, circulation and allergic responses, as well as the respiratory, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems.

Quick Nutritious Snacks – Andrea Cliff

A session devised to show how to have high calorie, tasty, nutritious snacks, that are easy and quick to make, when you are struggling with energy and appetite.

Complementary Therapies: A need for a collaborative and adapted approach – Annie Thantrey and Andi Lines

While tense muscles may be soothed by massage, gentle work can be just as effective if the therapist and client work together to find ways that the client might better manage their tension. This is a more collaborative approach that is both empowering and person centred.

Exercise why bother? – Marion Foreman

An exploration into why adopting a healthy lifestyle matters – before going on to talk about and demonstrate how to develop an active lifestyle without needing to take out gym membership.

In closing out the day, the nurses took the lead in demonstrating the importance of exercise by launching a virtual walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End via Huntingdon, 972.5 miles. Karen said the team would not count the miles completed whilst working but team members will take on extra activities!