Putting the care into cancer
SHE has been in hospital for five weeks and has advanced breast cancer but, wearing a standard issue NHS gown, proudly shows off her glamorous red nails.
The Trinity Holistic Centre in the grounds at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough has launched a range of new pilot programmes, including pamper sessions for patients on wards, to meet the spiralling demand for its therapy services.
As well enjoying a manicure, the 50-year-old is having ear acupuncture which, combined with medication, has amazingly wiped out horrendous night sweats after just three painless sessions.
“I was waking up in the night soaking wet, completely drenched, I had to ask to have the bed stripped and for a new gown, it was awful,” she says.
“You can feel the needles but it doesn’t hurt and they are only in for about 15 or 20 minutes once a week. To be honest I was very reluctant to try it but I’m so happy I did.
“And I’m glad I took up the offer to have my nails done, it has made me feel better in myself. I can’t do much with my hair and my eyebrows have gone. I love my red nails and I’ve had lots of people telling me how nice they look – if you’re going to do it why be subtle?”
Between 60 and 100 people, often men recovering from prostate cancer and women from breast cancer, are now being seen weekly at the centre for ear acupuncture.
Originally used for drug rehabilitation, the quick and relatively cheap procedure – which does not work on every patient – can produce fantastic results and the highly trained South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust staff are keen to prove it through an academic study.
Delivering evidence-based services is vitally important, explained centre business manager, Heather McLean, with terms like ‘healing’ and ‘alternative’ replaced with ‘complementary’ to emphasise how the service seeks to complement clinical care.
Patients and their families offered support through the friendly centre has risen from 680 to 2,100 each year and its welcoming people with other long term conditions such as dementia.
Besides counselling, a running group, Tai Chi and Look Good, Feel Better make-up classes, the centre has launched new schemes including cookery masterclasses, gardening and a photography project for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The course, funded by Prostate Cancer UK and led by local snapper John Kerr culminated in an exhibition attended by family, friends and consultants which highlighted the differing impact of each diagnosis.
One caption next to a picture titled ‘Future’ next to a picture of a baby reads “This is my grand-daughter who I want to see grow up”. Another called ‘Lion and Deer’, says “The lion lurking in the background waiting to strike is very much like how I see prostate cancer. Both are ruthless killers who show no discrimination or pity to their prey”.
On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, stylists from Clinic 36 hair salon based in Darlington set up shop with their extensive range of wigs and scarves for people with alopecia, the transgender community or those losing hair due to cancer treatment. A selection of men’s hair pieces are also available, complete with a receding hairline.
A 28-year-old woman who started chemotherapy just two weeks ago has made an appointment and she’s determined to find a long bright red wig with no fringe. She says she’s already cut nine inches off her hair and, now touching her shoulders, it’s the shortest its ever been. Sam Stein from Clinic 36, explained that if her head starts to feel itchy and tender, hair loss usually starts to occur within a week to 10 days.
Despite being shown a bob with flecked with shimmering red highlights and a long burgundy layered cut – but with a fringe – the woman flatly refuses to try either on and leaves empty handed, a reaction Sam said is rare.
After diagnosis cancer all patients are given a prescription for one free synthetic wig, worth £230. They are lighter than human hair versions, need to be washed less often and have monofilament linings which feel smooth on the scalp and create the illusion of natural hair growth.
“Being told you have cancer is devastating enough, then there is losing your hair,” said Sam who also painted the nails of the woman on Ward 14.
“Some people can handle it and some can’t but we’re here for whatever stage they are at. Some people think there hair isn’t going to fall out while others race here before they’ve even been handed the prescription.
“In the 1980s wigs used to be really plasticy and shiny and you could see all the stitching. They were so big and thick. They used to be really hot and sweaty but not any more. I know, I’ve had alopecia since I was 12.”
She added: “People can come here whatever stage they are at. Most say “I’m going to have my head shaved as it starts to fall out so I’m in control rather than it controlling me”.
“My trump card is that I wear a wig too and I tell people that I won’t let them walk out if they don’t look fantastic. Knowing that I have got it right is just a really, really good feeling.”
Trinity Holistic Centre – 01642-854839
MINI manicures, make-up tutorials and taster massages are just some of the fun activities to enjoy at Trinity Holistic Centre’s charity ladies night.
The Refresh and Renew event takes place on Wednesday 16 September from 7pm to 9pm at the centre at The James Cook University Hospital.
There will also be hair consultations (courtesy of Chintz hairdressers), lingerie (courtesy of the Little Bra Shop in Yarm), high quality second hand clothing, a raffle and refreshments.
Tickets for the event are £5 from 01642 854839 or email@example.com
Funds raised will help Trinity Holistic Centre continue to provide support to patients and families affected by cancer and other long term conditions at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.