Empowering cancer patients and carers: Macmillan Community Cancer Link Workers

The Macmillan Community Cancer Link Worker service, initially launched in Wandsworth in 2019, expanded its support to Croydon and Merton one year ago. The service has already successfully aided over 300 residents, demonstrating its need and effectiveness.  


Funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and delivered by Enable, the service is dedicated to helping people living with and beyond cancer access vital information and support, whether that’s navigating the emotional upheaval of a cancer diagnosis or finding support for practical issues such as welfare benefits or employment rights, the Macmillan Community Cancer Link Workers can refer and signpost people on to a variety of person-centred support.  


The service’s support is also proving of significant benefit for carers such as Hemma, whose mother who was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Immense challenges are faced by families dealing with cancer diagnoses and Hemma, who has experienced her own battles with mental health, found herself thrust into the role of her mother’s carer during the final lockdown, navigating the complexities of her mother’s diagnosis while grappling with her own emotional upheaval. Hemma’s mother is non-English speaking, and Hemma, who speaks Gujarati and English, attended all of her mother’s medical appointments in order to translate.   

“I didn’t understand how much the practical support would take – all her needs come before anything else. I felt like I was on the go all the time. I have existing clinical depression and mental health diagnoses, and it made them worse. I had to help her shower, help her change, all of it. It’s all ironic because my mental health was failing, but I was helping hers. She had 6 months of treatment.” 


I’ve made some life changing decisions since speaking to Sam (Macmillan Link Worker). I think cancer brings a new perspective, and Sam definitely helped me talk through that. And those changes have really helped my mental health, but also my physical health. By talking about it, it has helped me to accept things for what they are in my role as a carer. It was mum’s diagnosis, but I ‘went through it’. Talking meant I’ve been able to take a step back and make some time for myself. I felt that I didn’t have a voice; now I’m getting louder by the day!” 


Reflecting on her experience, Hemma expressed the profound impact the Macmillan Community Cancer Link Worker had on her journey. “I felt listened to,” she shares, “and didn’t feel silly for seeking support. Because it was focused on the cancer, it really helped me. Sam really listened.”  


The service not only provided practical assistance but also served as a lifeline for Hemma’s mental and physical well-being, empowering her to make life-changing decisions and find acceptance in her role as a carer. Hemma underscores the importance of services like this, emphasizing the pivotal role they play in providing holistic support to families affected by cancer. She even undertook a fundraiser, completing 10,000 steps a day in November and is aiming to build on this to complete the Marsden March in the next couple of years. 


Christine Young, Macmillan Partnership Quality for London said: “We are thrilled that the Macmillan Community Cancer Link Worker service has reached the 300 referrals milestone in just one year. The team provides fantastic support to both carers and patients at any point during their cancer pathway – from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. Macmillan has invested over £445,000 into the expansion of this initiative into the boroughs of Croydon and Merton, after a hugely successful initial launch in Wandsworth. This wider reach ensures we can be there for even more Londoners living with cancer.” 


The service stands poised to make a significant difference in the lives of countless individuals and families grappling with the challenges posed by cancer. With compassionate support and person-centred assistance at its core, the Macmillan Community Cancer Link Worker service continues to be a beacon of hope for those in need.  


If you are aged 18+, registered at a GP practice in Wandsworth, Merton or Croydon, and living with and beyond cancer (or are the carer of someone who is), the Macmillan Community Cancer Link Worker can provide the non-clinical support. Please visit https://enablelc.org/macmillancommunityproject-wandsworth  

The Macmillan Community Cancer Link Worker project provides a telephone translator service for appointments if required.  

For comprehensive cancer information and support visit www.macmillan.org.uk. The Macmillan Support Line is open 7 days a week 8am to 8pm 0808 808 0000. 

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