Helping cancer patients stay connected

Cancer Society support co-ordinator Cyndy Smith says because cancer can be so isolating people may want to connect with ...
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Cancer Society support co-ordinator Cyndy Smith says because cancer can be so isolating people may want to connect with others in similar situations face to face

What is your role within the Cancer Society and what does it involve?

I am the Cancer Support Coordinator, and am a contact point for our supportive care services across the Nelson/Tasman region.

I am based at the Nelson office four days a week; as well as visiting Motueka and Golden Bay on alternate months. Part of my role is providing one:one support and information to individuals and their partners/families. I basically see myself as a resource person, to be available to people at the point they may need it, both during and/or after treatment.

For some, this may be talking things through when they have just been diagnosed. For others it may be knowing what we can assist with, so they can call on us if they need to. Someone else may need counselling arranged, which we fund, or a support grant organised where there is financial stress.

Another person may need advocacy with accessing the services they need, or help finding information. Others may want to check in regularly, or contact for support post-treatment, when they have space to come to terms with what they have been through; or a partner/family member may need support for themselves.

Sometimes a couple or family may want to meet together to talk through what is happening and how they deal with things from here.

Often I am also providing information about other cancer services or letting people know about our support groups, or the information and library we have here. I also work alongside our local DHB and Hospice cancer services, as well as nationwide cancer support services.

The other part of my role is building connections between people.

Cancer can be very isolating – people may want to connect with others in similar situations face to face, but it's hard to find the time and energy to when they are dealing with all the demands of cancer treatment.

We have several support groups, and my role has included adding to these, such as a monthly carers' group for those supporting someone with cancer; school holiday activities, families where a parent/caregiver has cancer; and extending our bi-monthly Survivors and Thrivers groups in Nelson and Motueka, to Takaka as well. For some groups I have facilitated building up a shared contact list, or organised a guest speaker etc.

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How long have you been involved with the Cancer Society and what got you interested in joining?

I have worked in the Nelson area as a social worker for the past 27 years, in the health and social services. I joined the Cancer Society team in September 2017, after three years working in the Child Cancer area. The opportunity here came up and I felt it would be a role that could suit my skills, and where I could learn and grow as well.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?

I learn so much from the people I work with, about resilience, about adjusting to major change and crisis, about keeping on, about humour, about having open and frank conversations about issues often shied away from. I have been reminded of the importance of really listening. I also enjoy being part of a great team here at the Nelson office, including our many volunteers who help in so many ways.

 - Stuff

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