Macmillan is urging cancer patients to seek support if they are experiencing feelings of worry, fear or anxiety.

The Macmillan North Devon Cancer Care Counselling service regularly support people that are experiencing feelings of grief for their old life before it was changed forever by cancer.

This is often unexpected and hard to recognise, meaning many people struggle to move on and come to terms with the ‘new normal’ for them.

Speaking on World Mental Health Day yesterday (Wednesday), Jess French, Macmillan lead cancer care counsellor based at North Devon District Hospital, said sometimes people react with a ‘classic’ grief response.

She said: “When it’s time for people to get back to everyday life after cancer people can really struggle to come to terms with their ‘new normal’.

Jess French, Macmillan lead cancer care counsellor in North Devon. Picture: ContributedJess French, Macmillan lead cancer care counsellor in North Devon. Picture: Contributed

“People can react with what we would call a classic grief response because, without realising it, they are grieving for their old lives before cancer.

“It’s a big shock for people to experience this grief, especially if people around them are so happy that they are in remission.

“But what they have been through can be huge and the way they see themselves can change.

“It may have resulted in changes to their body, affected their ability to do the things they used to do. It is so important for people to know that these feelings are common and to seek support if they are struggling.”

Braunton-based Sophina Dobrocsi who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.

She added: “When I was diagnosed I didn’t feel ill, I had no symptoms as such and then very quickly I had to have a breast removed.

“It all happened very fast. I am a very positive person but one day when I was with my breast nurse I found myself bursting into tears.

“I suddenly I realised I was experiencing grief for what I had been through and how my life had been affected.

“I tend to just get on with things and I hadn’t realised how traumatised I was.

“This is where my Macmillan counsellor has been amazing.

“Jess just seemed to understand how I was feeling straight away and has been a complete rock for me.

“She provided a safe and nurturing space where I could work through my grief with her help. I feel so lucky and blessed to have been able to access this support.”

Psychological and emotional distress is a significant and ongoing problem for some people living with cancer but one way these issues can be identified is through electronic Holistic Needs Assessment (eHNA).

Locally people can get support from Macmillan’s North Devon Cancer Care Counselling service which offers free emotional support for people following a cancer diagnosis, including partners and children too.

Ask for a referral from your health or social care professional, or self-refer by calling 01271 334472 (Mon-Fri 9am – 7pm) or email jess.french@nhs.net.