The Winchester & Eastleigh Cancer Support Group has been operating since 1987, having initially been set up for women living with breast cancer. Over the years, the organisation has expanded to include anyone living with cancer and in 2020 were re-branded as “WeCanSupport”. This unique support group is run by volunteers all of whom have themselves, had a cancer diagnosis. We caught up with them to find out more.
What services do you offer people living with cancer?
We meet up once per month in Winchester at the Christ Church, and once per month at Chandlers Ford in the offices of Wessex Cancer Trust. Meeting on a Tuesday evening from 7.30pm until around 9pm, we offer chill and chat evenings with coffee / tea and biscuits provided. We also invite speakers throughout the year and we have 6 monthly visits from the Breast Care Nurses from Winchester Hospital.
We have also arranged a number of trips out including afternoon tea on a boat on the River Hamble, visits to the John Lewis Water Gardens near Stockbridge, followed by afternoon tea in the Waitrose Nursery Cafe, Christmas Lunch and Evening Meals out, and we held a party for the 30th Anniversary of the group.
We offer support and a listening ear for people with a cancer diagnosis and we hope that our experiences will help those who are either going through treatment now, struggling with ongoing hormone therapy, or have simply found themselves needing support years after their original cancer diagnosis. We know that panic, stress or anxiety can hit us at any time and we all need someone to turn to. No-one can provide support as well as someone who has already been on a cancer journey. We offer empathy, companionship, a shoulder to cry on, and hopefully a little bit of fun at this traumatic time.
Do you have a target demographic who use your services?
We are open to anyone over the age of 18 years old that has been affected by a cancer diagnosis.
How are you funded?
We are a self-funded support group. We ask for a £1 donation per person at each meeting to cover our refreshment costs but we are very fortunate to have complimentary use of the 2 venues that we use.
What’s the most rewarding thing about the work you do?
When we welcome people for the first time, they often arrive feeling very nervous and scared, but if they leave the meeting with a smile on their face, we know that we have succeeded. If we see them at our next meeting, we know that we have made a difference to their life. People start out as perfect strangers and go on to be some of our closest friends. We know that a support group isn’t for everyone, and we do not push people to talk about their experiences – sometimes we welcome them along just to listen to others talking about their experiences.
What would you say to those who are considering getting in touch with you but are nervous or apprehensive?
Please do get in touch! We can arrange to meet you locally for a cuppa if you’d prefer to meet with us on a one to one basis to begin with. We know how daunting it can be to walk into a room full of strangers. We can also arrange to meet you outside in the car park on your first visit and on future visits to introduce you to the other members. Some of our members have become lifelong friends and meet up outside of our meetings too. You may find that someone in the group is going through treatment at the same time as you and you can help each other through. Or you may find that someone in the group lives near to you and you can meet up for a chat outside of the meetings.
Do you have testimonials from people that have used your services?
We don’t have any testimonials on our website, but I am sure that we can arrange to do this from some of our current members.
Who works for you?
We are all volunteers, from all walks of life, all ages, mainly women at the moment, but we do welcome anyone with a cancer diagnosis. We all want to give our time to help others going through the same experiences as we have, as we know how tough it can be. It is truly a roller-coaster ride, that never ends. We call it “the gift that keeps on giving….”
What are the values of your organisation?
Our values are friendship, support, and a positive outlook.
And finally, can you describe your organisation in 3 words?
Welcoming, positive, fun.