Friends of ANCHOR has created an online support community for oncology and haematology patients currently going through treatment in the North-east.
The group exists on Facebook and is welcoming patients from Aberdeen and Shire, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.
Headed up by the charity, it will be a place for patients to connect with one another in a safe and supportive space, with tailored content for users including an accredited mindfulness course, designed and delivered specially for the needs of patients.
Other offerings within the group will include digital coffee mornings, kindness calls and one-to-one virtual wellbeing appointments with the charity’s specialist podiatrists, massage therapists and hairdresser, as well as a programme of entertainment from guest contributors including a music set from local pianist and vocalist Florence Jack and a healthy cooking demonstration from Kilted Chef Craig Wilson.
Friends of ANCHOR’s wellbeing team usually operates within the wards and clinics of the ANCHOR Unit at ARI, but with current restrictions in place, the charity has been getting creative with the ways it can support patients throughout their treatment.
The new mindfulness course on offer will be fully funded by the charity and available to all members of the Facebook group. It will be delivered through weekly group sessions, run by accredited mindfulness professional Louise Martin. The course will run once a week on Wednesdays from 10am to 11am.
Tutor Louise said: “In the past decade, nearly 150 clinical trials have been carried out to assess the effects of mindfulness in cancer management. These studies have highlighted that mindfulness can help to relieve particular symptoms and improve quality of life for people with cancer. The benefits can be far-reaching, including improved mood and concentration and reduced levels of pain or feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
“The course I will be teaching is called Mindfulness Bases Stress Reduction; it’s the most recognised and established mindfulness course, taught all over the world. Each week I will be teaching a different meditation practice and during the session there will be an opportunity to interact and ask questions, and there will be home practice for patients who wish to practice outwith the sessions too.”
Friends of ANCHOR’s wellbeing coordinator Paula Beattie added: “It’s so important to find ways to cultivate positive mental health during cancer treatment and for many people, mindfulness can be an extremely useful tool to help people cope better with treatment and the daily ups and downs of life.
“We’re really pleased to be offering this course, and it’s just one of many new support initiatives we’ll be rolling out within this patient support community.
“Right now physical isolation is an everyday reality for us all, but for patients going through treatment, emotional isolation can be a real problem during a time that is already challenging in its own way.
“Although we can’t be round the wards physically right now, we still want to offer support and that’s why we’re seeking to create this online community for patients, as a safe, supportive and private place for them to connect with fellow patients.
“As well as being a place for friendships to grow, we’ll be sharing patient-focused content that we hope will be of real benefit to patients – things like mindfulness and meditation, virtual cuppas and special guest appearances.”
To join the group, search ‘Friends of ANCHOR patient community’ on Facebook. The group is live now and the schedule of activities will begin daily from Monday.
Avril Mathieson from Crimond near Fraserburgh, is a patient of the ANCHOR Unit and says the community will provide valuable support: “This is a great resource for patients while the charity’s wellbeing services are suspended temporarily within the hospital. It can feel scary or daunting to go into the ANCHOR Unit for treatment, especially if it’s for the first time or you’re going alone. The services the wellbeing team provide are second to none and they’re worth their weight in gold – so until it’s business as usual, this is a great way to access that support and expertise. I’m looking forward to being part of it and seeing the daily messages and virtual services and support.”
Since restrictions were put in place at ARI, Friends of ANCHOR has also launched a virtual hair loss support service for patients facing hair loss during lockdown, and ‘Sunshine Post’ for inpatients, allowing them to safely receive poems, cards, photos and drawings from friends and family.