Family fun days with life-sized interactive games raise awareness on the importance of healthy eating and the signs and symptoms of cancer

A weekend of family fun days is taking place on 6-7 April in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, offering people the opportunity to learn more about their bodies, squeeze through a giant inflatable Big Bum and jump into life-sized educational arcade games as part of a health awareness initiative.

Big C Cancer Charity is working collaboratively with Freshly Greated arts organisation and Great Yarmouth born designer and artist Matthew Harrison on this educational event which includes a life-sized interactive game zone for all ages, inspired by classic arcade games.

Big C’s Big Bum will provide the opportunity for visitors to take a cheeky look inside the large bowel and learn about the fascinating human body, and the support team will be on hand to answer any questions.

There will be other special activities designed for children to increase their awareness of the human anatomy with the Endoscopy Services Team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and learn more on the importance of keeping active and eating well, with a smoothie bike for people to make their own fruit smoothies.

Two members of staff from the Endoscopy team at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital standing by a table of activities

Matthew Harrison, creator of The Actual Reality Arcade has developed the games which include Pac Man, Whack a Mole, Lazer run and Space Invaders, linking them to raising awareness on prevention, signs and symptoms, support and treatment of cancer.

Someone going through a Laser Run game crossing through ropes

The events which will take place at St Mary Magdalene Church, Gorleston-on-Sea on Saturday 6 April and Cobholm Primary Academy in Great Yarmouth on Sunday 7 April from 10am until 2pm, are being held in memory of Bob Adcock, well known and respected local resident and shop keeper on the Cobholm Estate, who sadly died of cancer in 2023.

Freshly Greated works with local people to create fun, exciting, and creative experiences in and around Great Yarmouth, funded by Arts Council England and led by the local community with their lead organisation Voluntary Norfolk.

Karen Jeremiah, Programme Director at Freshly Greated said “We are really keen to support the work of Big C and host events that are both informative and fun for these communities. The range of activities on offer will mean all local people can take part in a really interactive and engaging way.”

Cath Watts, Nutritionist and Health Academy Lead said “We are so excited to be working with Freshly Greated and Matthew Harrison on these events and have had so much fun planning them together! We very much hope that this fresh initiative really helps people understand the importance of looking after themselves understanding the signs and symptoms of cancer and knowing what to do if something doesn’t seem right.”

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Big C Uses New Health Academy to Promote Education around Cancer

Big C has launched its own Health Academy as part of the organisation’s Education Division and in line with NHS Core20PLUS5 initiative.

The objective of the Big C Health Academy is to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer, the importance of early diagnosis, and provide greater understanding of the disease across health professions and in the general community.

The new Health Academy ‘houses’ the charity’s team of education experts including health education officers, nutritionists and personal trainers, who run exercise and nutrition programmes designed for those affected by cancer, including ‘Get Moving’, ‘Nourish & Nurture’, Walking Football, Seated Pilates and Yoga.

Within the academy, Big C is running a series of health events across Great Yarmouth and Waveney in collaboration with Norfolk & Waveney Integrated Care Board, to help people understand the signs and symptoms of cancer and the importance of attending screening appointments, to support early diagnosis. The events are diverse in the types of venues and activities which are on offer.

East Coast College will be among those benefitting from this free service, with a cancer awareness day on 30th November, inviting students from both the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft campuses to come along and find out more.

East Coast College Logo

Holly Chase, Assistant Principal at East Coast College, said: “Events such as these are extremely important for educating our students on the signs and symptoms to look out for in cancer and it will also equip them with knowledge to take back home and support family and friends too. We are delighted to be hosting the Big C Health Academy at our Great Yarmouth campus and know it will be a fantastic event for staff and students alike.”

Among the activities being offered will be Big C’s Big Bum; a giant inflatable walk-through exhibit showing the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, as well as fun activities on nutrition and a smoothie bike. There will be an opportunity to find out more about the importance of healthy eating, with low budget recipe demonstrations and a copy of Big C’s free cookbook ‘Essential Flavour’.

Big C's Big Bum at an event

“We are delighted to be working with East Coast College on this event. It is a great opportunity for us to get out into the student community within the Great Yarmouth area and spread awareness around cancer. Thank you to the team at East Coast College for all their hard work in helping put the event on.”

Cath Watts, Nutritionist and Health Academy Lead

The Big C team will be on hand to talk through any concerns people may have, with a private space for individuals wanting 1:1 support. There will also be a variety of leaflets to take away with further information.

Dr Melanie Pascale, Director of Charitable Operations at Big C, said, “Although we are well known for our support and information services, people perhaps know less about our education programmes which we see as being equally vital to the work we do to help those affected by cancer in our community, now and in the future. We have ambitious plans for this element of our strategy and welcome interest from any corporate who would be interested in exploring funding of our activities.”  

Three woman smiling holding their freshly baked goods.

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New support for people living with secondary breast cancer

Leading research and support charity, Breast Cancer Now, is launching a new service with Big C in Norwich for people with incurable secondary breast cancer.

This follows a recommendation made by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) for more secondary breast cancer support in the area, after patients and staff took part in Breast Cancer Now’s Service Pledge programme to improve their breast cancer services.

The ‘Living with Secondary Breast Cancer’ group will bring together people with the disease to talk, listen and learn with others who understand the challenges that secondary breast cancer brings in a relaxed and supportive environment.

The free monthly group is the first from Breast Cancer Now in Norfolk and begins on Friday 10 November, 11am-1pm. The group will be held at our Norwich City Support Centre on Dereham Road.

‘Living with Secondary Breast Cancer’ sessions are facilitated by an experienced counsellor and every few months there is the chance to hear from an expert speaker on topics such as treatment side effects, fatigue and clinical trials.

3 people seated on easy chairs having a coffee and chat.

Dr Melanie Pascale, Director of Charitable Operations at Big C, said:

“We are really looking forward to working with Breast Cancer Now and launching the new group at the Norwich City Cancer Support Centre, which opened earlier this year. These sessions will offer much needed support for local people dealing with the challenges that secondary breast cancer brings and we know from our service users how important this support will be.”

It is estimated that over 61,000 people are living with secondary breast cancer (also called metastatic, advanced, or stage 4 cancer) in the UK. The disease occurs when breast cancer cells spread from the breast to other parts of the body, most commonly the bones, liver, lung or brain. While secondary breast cancer can be treated, it cannot currently be cured.

Susan Wood, Senior Manager, Secondary Breast Cancer Services at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“We are thrilled to be rolling out such an invaluable support service in Norwich to help us be there for people living with secondary breast cancer across Norfolk and it’s wonderful to be hosting these groups at the Big C Centre.

“Secondary breast cancer is full of uncertainties and people tell us that they often feel overlooked or forgotten once receiving the devastating diagnosis. Our Living with Secondary Breast Cancer group offers a warm, friendly space to share what’s on your mind with people who understand, to help people feel less alone, as well as provide vital support and crucial information.

“If anyone has any questions at all or would like to register to join the group please do get in touch with us at secondaryservice@breastcancernow.org or call 0345 077 1893.”

Joann Mcgrath, Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist for breast at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said:

“The breast cancer care team were so pleased that they took part in Breast Cancer Now’s Service Pledge Programme. It was so helpful to receive feedback about the experiences of breast cancer patients. We were able to reflect on and celebrate the areas that we felt we did well but also areas that we could improve upon, including support for patients with secondary breast cancer.

“With the involvement and guidance from Breast Cancer Now the Norwich secondary breast cancer group has come to fruition. The group will provide a safe place and supportive environment for patients to share any concerns and worries with facilitators and specialists. The group will also be an essential bridge from the NNUH to the community as a great deal of patients are living well with their disease and would like to meet other patients to talk about their experiences. The group is a big step forward in demonstrating that we have listened and validated our patients concerns and we are positive that the group will be a success going forward.”

Register online at breastcancernow.org/Living-with-Norwich or call Breast Cancer Now on 0345 077 1893.

About us

We are a local, people-first charity providing outstanding cancer support.

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At our centres across the region, we offer support to anyone affected by cancer.

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Big C Joins the WOW Bus in Lowestoft

Big C will be joining the ‘WOW’ Bus (Wellness on Wheels) in Lowestoft to help promote early awareness of cancer signs and symptoms.

On September 18th and October 11th, Big C will be on board the WOW Bus in Lowestoft High Street, just outside Greggs near London Road and Surrey Street. The charity will be offering free support to those who may have questions about cancer and raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer to promote earlier diagnosis.

Cath Watts, Big C’s Health Education Officer, said, “This is a great chance for us to get out into the Waveney community and meet local people on their doorstep. We’d encourage anyone visiting Lowestoft High Street on the days we’re there to step aboard the WOW Bus and come and meet our friendly team. We’d be very happy to answer any questions you may have about cancer and the support available for anyone affected. Thank you to the team behind the WOW Bus for this valuable opportunity.”

The WOW Bus travels across Norfolk and Waveney to access those who need extra help with their health and care. It is supported by partner organisations across the Integrated Care Partnership (ICC) including NHS Norfolk and Waveney, Norfolk County Council, East Suffolk Council, the voluntary community and the social enterprise sector.

Big C’s involvement is part of one of the charity’s latest initiatives; a Health Academy, in collaboration with Norfolk & Waveney ICB, which aims to address early diagnosis by improving cancer prevention and cancer awareness within Norfolk and Waveney, with a particular emphasis on areas of deprivation and hard to reach communities, in line with NHS Core20PLUS5 initiative.

About us

We are a local, people-first charity providing outstanding cancer support.

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At our centres across the region, we offer support to anyone affected by cancer.

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Surge in Demand for Support as Major Cancer Centre Launches in Norwich

Big C is reporting a sharp surge in demand for their services. Year on year* Big C has seen an overall increase of 79% in total support sessions from 4904 to 8782. In addition, a rise of 120% in Support and Information sessions and an increase of 51% in complementary therapy treatments provided by the organisation.

This news has been announced as the Norfolk based charity opens the doors of its new state-of-the-art Cancer Support Centre in Dereham Road, Norwich. The new centre has been designed by Norwich architects, Purcell.

Dr Melanie Pascale, Director of Charitable Operations said, “In line with the NHS long term plan, we know that treating cancer with a holistic approach leads to the best outcomes.** We are delighted that so many more people affected by cancer are accessing our support which includes a raft of services to ease some of the worries, anxieties and practical concerns that may present alongside a cancer diagnosis. This includes the opportunity to visit the centre and talk in confidence to our team of nurses and skilled support officers, to access professional counselling and complementary therapies, nutrition and exercise programmes, group sessions and assistance with financial and welfare concerns in partnership with the CAB.

“Our purpose is to ensure we can meet this demand and we are beyond proud to announce the opening of our Norwich City Cancer Support Centre, which thanks to a hugely successful public appeal, raised £750,000 to build, furnish and equip the centre. This new centre will complement our existing centre in the grounds of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.”

Norfolk has the most elderly population of UK counties, with a disproportionate older demographic of 24.4% and a projection suggesting an increase to 30% over the next 20 years.*** and therefore as cancer is predominantly a disease of age, the county will see a higher incidence. Big C has worked hard to expand the scope of its support and to raise awareness of the breadth of help, which is completely free of charge, available for cancer patients and their families in Norfolk and neighbouring counties. In the past couple of years alone this has included the introduction of a Nourish & Nurture nutrition and wellness programme, palliative care support group, the HILL bereavement programme and walking football sessions.

Dr Chris Bushby, CEO of Big C Cancer Charity, said, “The level of holistic care provided by Big C is sadly still rare in regions across the UK. We are so very fortunate that David Moar MBE and Clive Bamford founded Big C in 1980 and through strong leadership and loyal support from our amazing individual and corporate donors, grants and trusts, we’ve been able to grow into the large regional charity it is today.

“Today is a celebration of that, the culmination of an enormous amount of planning, work and tenacity! But look at the result, this Cancer Support Centre is at the forefront of best practice in cancer care. It’s a bright, highly functional, welcoming space which will provide respite, comfort, counsel and a space to solve problems and ‘wrap the arms’ around those that need us.”

“Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped bring our vision to life. We are open and ready to support.”

DR CHRIS BUSBHY, CEO AT BIG C

The new centre features a light, calming central lounge area with comfortable seating and reflective artworks, an open-plan workshop kitchen, private rooms for one-to-one counselling, complementary therapy treatment rooms, The Big C Studio; a bright space for group activities and exercise classes, an intimate alcove library and a sensory wellbeing garden.

An exercise instructor taking a class with participants seated and their arms out to the fron

Big C was thrilled to be gifted a virtual tour of the new Support Centre, to allow people to familiarise themselves with the environment before visiting for the first time. The 360 tour was created by the innovative team at immersive media specialists, Vortex Visual.

Max and Will, co-founders of Vortex said “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to support such an important charity. We’re all affected by cancer in different ways, and to know that there’s a centre right here in the heart of Norwich for people to pop into, as and when they need support, is amazing. We hope the virtual tour enables people orient themselves with this beautiful centre before they attend, whether they have cancer themselves, or they’re a family member, friend or supporter of Big C.”

To access Big C’s support at the new Norwich City Cancer Support Centre, simply drop-in 9am – 4.30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays) or call our Support Line on 0800 092 7640 to make an appointment. The new centre is situated at 66-70 Dereham Road, Norwich, NR2 4BU.

3 people seated on easy chairs having a coffee and chat.
Seven members of the Norwich City Support Team sitting on and standing around brightly coloured sofas

*Qtr 1 2022 to 2023

** The NHS Long Term Plan for Cancer states that “where appropriate every person diagnosed with cancer will have access to personalised care, including a needs assessment, a care plan and health and wellbeing information and support

*** Source ONS Census 2021

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Why I Will Be Walking Over Hot Coals for Big C

I’m Tonia, Area Manager at Big C Cancer Charity, where I’ve worked for the past decade.

In August I will be celebrating this milestone by raising money for those affected by cancer in Norfolk and Suffolk, by taking on the not incidental challenge of a Firewalk! The event is being held in Castle Quarter gardens, with the majestic Norwich Castle as a backdrop. It should be memorable to say the very least!

Working for Big C is a privilege and a role I find incredibly rewarding, however my path to employment with the charity followed a devastating family tragedy.

In 2006, on my 30th birthday and nine weeks before I was due to get married, my Dad was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and died just six weeks later.

I am the eldest of six siblings, four of whom are from my Dad’s second marriage. They had already very sadly lost their mother, who also had skin cancer, eight years previously and felt extremely vulnerable. Overnight I became the ‘head’ of the family. My Dad’s life insurance unfortunately didn’t pay out and so I had the challenging task of finding somewhere for each of them to live. All were between 14 to 20 years old, I also needed to find college placements for the two youngest. The oldest two had worked for Dad’s building firm and consequently were now unemployed. Eventually and with the amazing support of my now husband, Jonathan, I became the legal guardian for my youngest half-sister in conjunction with a family friend. We were all in real need of both emotional and financial support. I sought help locally, but there wasn’t anything available in the King’s Lynn area at the time, I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders with all my new responsibilities.

My first career was in catering and hospitality but following starting a family of my own and in light of the life-changing experiences following my Dad’s death, I felt the need for a change and had always wanted a role helping others. I trained as a volunteer to be Cancer Awareness Champion, which I loved, this involved raising awareness of cancer symptoms, something very close to my heart. I also worked as a community champion where I supported local charities and organisations with their fundraising events in the local area.

Then in 2012 I saw a job advertisement which I could not ignore. Big C were expanding into West Norfolk and opening a Big C Cancer Support Centre in King’s Lynn. I knew immediately the difference that this level of support would have meant to myself and my family. I applied for the role and in what felt like a turn of fate, got the job and became the new Centre Manager.

That was ten years ago and in the time that has passed, I am delighted to have seen and experience the charity blossom and expand. We have a truly amazing team. It can be an emotional job, but often has the greatest rewards and this is how we feel knowing we can make someone feel just that bit better. We build very close relationships with those we support and sometimes this can be over many years. We work with the whole family, not just the person with a cancer diagnosis. Supporting families during this vulnerable time is an honour.

A photograph taken behind of two people talking.

If I’d been able to walk into a Big C Centre when my family and I needed help, I know the team would have ‘wrapped their arms’ around us, providing practical, emotional, bereavement support and helping to navigate the financial and welfare benefits we needed to re-house family members and fund college equipment. It would have made a huge difference then and I couldn’t be more proud and thankful that such first-class support is there now for those that need us.

Three people sat in comfortable chairs in one of our Big C support centres.

My Firewalk

And so that is why on August 6th, my heart will be racing and I will literally be walking over hot coals to raise funds for Big C!

If you would like to sponsor me, I would be extremely grateful. My gofundme page is  https://gofund.me/e55457ff

The impact Tonia has made at Big C over the past ten years is immeasurable. Her passion for helping others and leading her team, along with her lovely bubbly personality make her a key member of the Big C family and the charity wouldn’t be the same without her! I am not surprised to hear she is taking on the Firewalk and I wish her the very best of luck! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for her kindness and dedication to improving the lives of many local families affected by cancer.

DR MELANIE PASCALE, DIRECTOR OF CHARITABLE OPERATIONS

Many thanks to Norwich based Yellow Brick Mortgages who have sponsored the event and to Castle Quarter for hosting the event for free. Castle Quarter’s marketing and administration manager, Gemma Hyde, will be stepping up to the hot coals too and taking part in the Firewalk.

Managing Director Greg Marcham said “Here at Yellow Brick Mortgages we have enjoyed a great relationship supporting Big C over the years and look forward to doing so again. Unfortunately, cancer remains so prevalent in many of our lives and we hope this event can help the cause accordingly.”

Gemma Hyde, marketing and administration manager at Castle Quarter says; “Big C are a charity that have touched the lives of thousands of people in Norfolk, supporting families who have sadly been affected by cancer. It delivers incredible practical, emotional and specialist support, as well as funding research to help prevent, treat and beat cancer. When I heard Tonia’s story, I wanted to step up to the coals too and join her on the Firewalk in solidarity. It’s pretty daunting thinking about it, so if anyone would like to watch and cheer us on from the sidelines, please do, your support would mean a lot.”

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Catherine’s story: Living with breast cancer through a pandemic

Catherine was diagnosed with breast cancer during the Coronavirus pandemic in May 2020. This is her story…

Catherine had felt a lump in her breast that appeared very suddenly. She booked an appointment with her GP who then made an emergency referral to the hospital. Catherine was then scanned for Breast Cancer. The mammogram showed cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in her armpit.

When asked how Catherine felt about the initial diagnosis, she said: “Absolute terror. At that point, I didn’t know anyone who had survived cancer. I was desperately worried about my family. I initially cried lots because I worried about not being with my children as they grew up. I was concerned about what to do about my job. I was also quite angry because I had always been healthy and careful about diet and exercise. It came out as a rage about the unfairness of life!”

Catherine was not alone in these feelings. Her husband and children were deeply worried for her along with Catherine’s sister and parents, who live far away, with her sister in London and parents in France. It was a very lonely and isolating time for her.

Catherine only saw her sister and parents once over the year, with them visiting in the garden and Catherine sitting inside her kitchen. Not being able to see family during an exceptionally worrying time, not knowing whether the cancer would worsen, made the process a lonely one for Catherine.

She said: “I wasn’t able to see any friends either. Thank goodness for Facetime and Zoom! When the children went back to school in September I had to isolate myself from them in the run up to my surgery. We decided as a family that it would be better that way than them continuing to stay off school. The risk of Covid also made it very worrying every time I went out for a walk or to an appointment at the Doctor; I felt increasingly at risk.”

Big C has played a key element in Catherine feeling less alone. Big C’s Senior Cancer Information Clinical Nurse Specialist, called Catherine every week to answer her questions and concerns.

“The Big C specialist talked me through every stage of the treatment and calmed my anxieties in the most wonderful way. She made it clear that there was no question or fear too silly or embarrassing to ask.”

CATHERINE, SERVICE USER

Catherine said: “I could never have done it without her. They explained all the benefits very clearly so I knew exactly what I could claim and how. Then when I went in for my surgery I was given a leaflet about exercise. Big C’s Health Education Officer organised for me to join a mindfulness yoga group. It was amazing, Nikki was a fantastic teacher! Also, I received a beautiful hamper in the hospital full of carefully thought through items as well as little care packages delivered to my door. The best was the 5kg bag of pasta during the lockdown!”

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Read more

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Subscribe to our mailing list to receive news and updates from Big C.

Big C cookery workshop

On Thursday 16th March, a group of people with a cancer diagnosis and their supporters, enjoyed our Big C cookery workshop, at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford.

Big C has recently collaborated with chef and Life Kitchen founder, Ryan Riley, to create Essential Flavour, a cookbook with a selection of delicious and cost-effective recipes to help cancer patients and their families who are struggling through the cost-of-living crisis. It comes as a shocking OnePoll survey* finds that 55% of cancer patients think they will struggle to pay for food this year. A second report found that seven in 10 people living with cancer are now facing unexpected costs averaging £6,500 per year.

The workshop guests cooked two of the recipes from the book, spicy bean quesadillas and peanut butter granola bars.

“I enjoy cooking and nourishing myself with good food. This has been a lovely way to spend a morning. I’ve never used miso as an ingredient before and so I shall now try to use that in my own cooking!”

HELEN, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT

Julia, who has breast cancer, attended with her husband, Keith, who does most of the cooking in their house. Julia said, “This is a lovely opportunity to meet people who are in the same situation as you. Keith has taken such good care of me and I have been lucky through Chemotherapy to have still been able to eat well. Orange juice did taste very strange for a while though!”

Keith said, “I will try some of the other recipes from the book too. I love to support Juilia through my cooking and it helps to reduce some of the stress from a difficult situation.”

Somebody preparing a delicious dish.

Essential Flavour

The new bright and engaging cookbook features 15 budget-friendly recipes, costing from as little as 58p per person to make.

There are 5,000 printed copies of the free book (£3 P&P fee applies) available from the Big C website or www.lifekitchen.co.uk or can be collected from Big C centres in Norfolk, including the Charles Burrell Centre.

A free online download is also available.

The Essential flavour cookbook.

“The cost-of-living crisis is a huge concern for everyone across the entire country, particularly those living with cancer. We created Essential Flavour because we wanted to do something to help, to try and relieve some of that anxiety for people living with cancer. All the recipes have been created with cost in mind, but they’re still full of flavour and delicious.”

RYAN RILEY, LIFE KITCHEN CO FOUNDER

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, multi-award-winning writer, broadcaster and supporter of Life Kitchen has written the foreword for Essential Flavour. He said, “This is an important, compassionate and hugely useful book which recognises the impact of the cost-of-living crisis upon our most vulnerable in the UK. It’s dreadful to hear that when facing a cancer diagnosis, many are more concerned with how they will afford to eat…I’m sure that it will serve as a vital resource for those that need it most.”

A picture of some delicious food made by a Big C volunteer.

Dr Melanie Pascale, Director of Charitable Operations at Big C said, “We’re increasingly hearing from people who are in a difficult financial situation, on top of the profound challenge of cancer. We hope our cookbook offers both practical help and reassurance for those that need it most.”

A picture of somebody holding a drink in a white mug.

The approach of the inspirational team at Life Kitchen echoes Big C’s holistic ethos towards cancer care and the charity’s Nourish & Nurture nutrition and wellness programme for cancer patients going through treatment.

Big C Support Sessions take place at the Charles Burrell Centre every Thursday, in the Engine Room café 9am to 2pm.

*Full OnePoll survey on behalf of cancer support charity, Maggie’s can be viewed here.

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Janice’s story

Janice is one of our dedicated volunteers at the King’s Lynn Support Centre, and having been involved for a while now, wanted to share her volunteer story…

Janice is a fantastic part of the Big C family. Her daughter, Tonia is the Charitable Operations Area Manager at our King’s Lynn Support Centre.

In 2014, Janice, her then boyfriend, Eddie and her daughter Tonia began attending Slimming World. It wasn’t until Eddie started losing a lot of weight very quickly that they began to notice something might be out of the ordinary. Shortly afterwards, he began having swallowing difficulties.

After a doctor’s appointment, Eddie was sent to have an endoscopic procedure and then biopsies and on that same day, he was diagnosed with Oesophageal Cancer. This outcome hadn’t even crossed Eddie or Janice’s minds and was a huge shock to them all.  

Following his diagnosis, Tonia brought Eddie and Janice to the Norwich Support Centre in the grounds of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital so they could access advice, information and support.  

It was discussed whether Eddie could have surgery, but unfortunately, this could not go ahead, so he began chemotherapy to shrink the tumour. His consultant gave him the prognosis that without chemotherapy, he would be able to live for another 6 months, with the chemotherapy, he could live for another 9 – 18 months.

During his treatment, Eddie had a stent fitted to help him continue eating as normally as possible, however, he lost about 7 stone. This was the thing that struck Janice and one of the hardest realisations. Eddie was a man who loved his food and Janice loved to cook for him so it was hard on them both.

Service users, Janie and Eddie

In March, Eddie had his birthday and at the same time, he was admitted to hospital to have another stent fitted. Being in hospital helped with his pain management but he really just wanted to be at home.

Eddie proposed to Janice that summer and in November 2014, they were married. They had a lovely day but Eddie only managed to stay until 7pm.

During Eddie’s treatment period, Janice recalls attending Big C support sessions in the Kings Lynn Centre, including the weekly men’s group, drop-in sessions, tea and cake with other centre visitors as well as seeing a welfare advisor and having some helpful relaxation sessions. As Eddie’s carer, Janice attended some complementary therapies, chatted with people in a similar situation and the team helped her acquire things that she needed to look after Eddie at home which made such a difference.

Eddie passed away in May 2015, 9 months after his initial diagnosis. Janice recalls him being frightened but he was a strong person, he never lost his hope.

“Big C are a big help to people and put peoples mind at ease, they put you in the right place for what you need. Some medical professionals spoke to me like I knew it all already, I didn’t know which way to turn. I was supported by Big C and it made a big difference. To have somebody care and understand what you do need, is a big thing. Big C was that. They helped us all the way through.”

Janice, big c volunteer

Following Janice’s experience with Big C, she wanted to get involved by volunteering. She know helps at Big C’s King’s Lynn Centre talking to people that visit the Centre, making them feel at home and offering a cup of tea.

“The understanding, help and compassion Big C gave was marvellous. I still volunteer and help with fundraising events. If it’s going to help, that’s why I do it.”

Volunteer Janice, sitting in a green comfy chair at the Royal Norfolk Show

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Coping with grief at Christmas

The festive holidays can bring up all sorts of emotions and there can be lots of expectations floating around to get things just right. If you are grieving or spending time with somebody who is trying to find a connection with the loved one they have lost, give space to all the thoughts and feelings that may arise.

  • Allow yourself to cry, tears are nature’s way of alleviating pain and strong emotions.
  • Spend your Christmas differently this year. Go somewhere special, spend the time with different friends or family, as staying at home might be too difficult for you and this is okay. Don’t try to cope alone, reach out to others.
  • You may also want to consider keeping traditions and routines you shared with your loved one, to bring you comfort, such as attending midnight mass, watching a favourite movie or taking part in a charity Christmas swim.
  • Connect with nature. Go for a long walk, feel the cold on your face and hear the noise of the leaves crunching under your feet. Breathe in the cool air and give yourself time to just be in the moment.
  • Be kind and look after yourself. Try not to judge your thoughts and feelings. Keep to a routine, eat regularly and stick to your sleeping patterns.
  • Try to remember that everyone grieves in their own way. When families and friends come together each person has their own views and ideas on best ways to remember loved ones. Try to remain mindful that others may not always know what to say.
  • Find ways to remember your loved one, this could be carrying a photo with you, wearing their winter scarf, visiting their resting place or somewhere that’s special to you and them. You may find it helps to talk to your loved one, either aloud or in your thoughts.
  • Try not to feel guilty when you have moments of enjoyment and laughter.

Remember, you can reach out to Big C by emailing us or calling our Support Line on 0800 0927640 for a friendly listening ear.  

A woman holding her hands in her lap
Other support available over Christmas

Cruse Bereavement Helpline – Call 0808 808 1677

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – Call 0808 196 3494 (available 24 hours a day)

Samaritans – Call 116 123 (available 24 hours a day)

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) – Call 0800 585858 (available 5pm until midnight 365 days a year)

A close up of people holding hands

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Let’s keep in touch

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive news and updates from Big C.