When Helena Davies was diagnosed with cancer the treatment she received, she says, was second to none.
But afterwards, once the surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy were completed, Helena admitted she felt ‘abandoned’ as she waited months for her next hospital appointment.
Now the 52-year-old is backing a new scheme launched by the South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and North Derbyshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups and Macmillan Cancer Support called Living With And Beyond Cancer - designed to help people adjust to life after surviving the condition.
Projects being trialed include education, exercise and nutrition programmes, as well as a ‘buddy scheme’ in which cancer sufferers with similar diagnoses support one another.
Helena, from Wortley near Sheffield, was told she had breast cancer five years ago, and described her treatment as an ‘ordeal’.
“The staff are all absolutely fantastic, but the current experience for most adults going through treatment is very commonly they feel abandoned at the end of treatment,” said Helena, a former paediatrician at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
“Suddenly you might not see anyone for six months, when you’re still coming to terms with cancer.”
Projects deemed a success will be included in a ‘service blueprint’ to help health chiefs decide what support should be offered in future.
Currently there are two million people living with, or having survived, cancer in the UK, a figure set to rise to four million by 2030.
The increase is commonly put down to an ageing population, more effective treatments, and earlier diagnosis through screening.
Survivorship Programme Manager Hayley Williams said: “It’s a cause for celebration that more people than ever are surviving after a diagnosis but we know the impact of cancer does not suddenly stop when treatment is over and that we need to support people through a continued phase of self-management.
“People often report difficulties returning to normal life. They may struggle emotionally and physically, needing to adjust to changes treatment has made to their body.
“Even though they feel healthy, they may struggle to return to normal everyday things, for example working.
“We want this struggle to end through the availability of the correct help and support.”
Living With And Beyond Cancer was launched with a special event at the Holiday Inn on Victoria Quays, Sheffield. A further event will take place next year to gauge which projects should form part of the blueprint.