As shielding people come to terms with an easing on lockdown measures, the Isolating and vulnerable cancer patients in Cumbria continue to be supported by Macmillan Information and Support Service Manager, Hilary Kendal.

Working from home, Hilary has been providing telephone support and advice, and signposting anxious patients and carers to counsellors, benefits advisers, clinical teams and health and wellbeing therapists.

Hilary_Kendal_ Macmillan1.jpgHilary, who prior to Coronavirus was based at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, explains the impact of telephone support for patients who are still choosing to shield.

“A lot of people in Cumbria live in remote areas and could be in danger of becoming totally isolated, but I think our communities, and the CVS have done a wonderful job in making sure that people are looked after and don’t feel cut off.

“While shielding has been in the best interests of those most vulnerable, it has seriously affected the mental health of some patients. Many want to try and continue as normally as possible even whilst having treatment, and carry on with daily activities, but they’ve been greatly restricted by shielding.

“One person told me that it’s vital to have phone contact and that she doesn’t know how she’d have coped without it and is grateful for the calls to both her and her friend who does the shopping.

“This lady doesn’t have a computer or tablet, doesn’t do email or social media, but used to go out every day for some ‘people contact’ prior to covid-19. I have spoken to people who had reached the stage where they would look forward to visits to the doctors or hospital because it meant they got to go off into the outside world.

“The calls I’ve had over the shielding period have been more in-depth with people asking about how long they should be shielding following surgery or completion of treatment, and I’ve referred these to the clinical teams who will have a more comprehensive answer than I do.

“I’ve also had calls asking about procedures before surgery that I’ve directed to the medical secretaries and clinical teams.

“I spoke to one man who was due to have surgery the following day and hadn’t told his elderly mother about what was happening because he didn’t want to worry her, but he knew that she was worrying anyway because she realised there was something he wasn’t telling her.  Again, giving people the space, and almost permission, to talk around a lot of issues before coming to their own conclusion is at the heart of what we do. Sometimes I don’t have to say a lot because I’m providing somewhere safe for those thoughts to be voiced.

“Other calls and emails have been around access to benefits, and I can point people to our Macmillan advisers around the county.

“I’ve also started to broaden conversations and see if there’s other information I can provide and I offer to phone people again just for a chat. This offer has been taken up by a couple of people and is something I’m hoping to develop with my volunteer team once we return to the centre.

“It’s also been great that the charity Look Good Feel Better are providing online virtual sessions to help patients regain confidence over their appearance, but there are many people who tell me that they either don’t have a computer or they don’t really know how to use one and sometimes don’t want to. I can understand that. People have so much to deal with at the moment.”

“We welcome calls, texts or emails from people who want more advice, information, or even for a chat.

“We are here for all those in need of support, we know this is a difficult time for not just those with cancer, but their families too. We hope that by offering our support virtually, we can still have a positive impact for those who need us.’

Contact Hilary’s team on 01228 814283 or  07721 236489. Email –

About Macmillan Cancer Support

We’re here to help everyone with cancer live life as fully as they can, providing physical, financial and emotional support. So whatever cancer throws your way, we’re right there with you.

For information, support or just someone to talk to, call 0808 808 00 00 or visit



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