WHEN most people think of the Kerry Cancer Support Group, set up in 2007, the Kerry Cork Health Link Bus springs to mind and it’s no surprise. The bus, which transports cancer patients to and from hospital appointments, has become a regular sight on the road to Cork. The bus remains the groups “signature service” and it operates to and from CUH every day, empowering patients to attend radiotherapy appointments. It also facilities appointments in the nearby Bons Secours, Cork Clinic and on occasion the Mercy Hospital depending on patients needs.
Yet, what many people may not be aware of are the many additional and new services the group now provides thanks to the support of it’s team of voluntary fundraisers, drivers and committee members. One of the less well know services offered through the Kerry Cancer Support Group is it’s education, information and awareness work: “We go to the secondary schools, to groups, anyone really who wants us to come and speak to them in Kerry- in and around awareness, know your body and prevention” explained Breda Dyland, Manager of the Kerry Cancer Support Group.
Using the #knowyourbody Breda travels to secondary schools mostly to speak about being sun, about healthy lifestyle- cutting our smoking, limiting alcohol intake, exercise and diet. “The main thing really knowing your body, being aware of changes- knowing what’s normal for you and obviously to act on any changes immediately,” Breda suggested.
The Kerry Cancer Support Group services also raises awareness around screening and pre-screening recently travelling to marts around Kerry to speak to farmers. For those already diagnosed however the ‘Peer Companion’ service is key: “Where people who are newly diagnosed they give us a call and they want someone to talk to who has been through it. They are not counsellors, they are just people who have been through it and they are there at the end of the phone or to meet people. Nobody really knows what its like unless they have been through it themselves”.
“It’s a little bit of comfort for someone who is going through it for the first time,” Breda added. One of the newest additions to services is bridging transport, a service which has literally just taken to the road in recent weeks. “It’s exactly what it says on the tin, it’s an emergency driver. Where there is nothing else there for an individual we come in and we help them out. It’s on a really once off basis,” Breda said.
With just two staff members the service is also hugely dependent on it’s voluntary board which is made up of former service user, business people and professionals from across the county: “It’s a great mix and you need that. All these people have contacts- and they bring a vast knowledge to the charity”.
For many volunteers working with the Kerry Cancer Support Group is an opportunity to give back, for those who have used the service or whose family members have benefitted. Breda is aware that it is not always an easy volunteering option for people who have not had experience of living with cancer. “We find that sometimes people can be afraid to volunteer with us because- if they haven’t been through it themselves that they are afraid that coming into contact with people- and that’s understandable too,” Breda revealed. “Until they come in contact with the service, they might think that it’s a sad place to be and it’s not. It’s a very positive place to be, we have great fun,” she added.
Before taking over as Manager Breda started life as a volunteer with the service herself and is hugely aware of how people are to the future of the service. “It costs upwards of €120,000 to run the service- that’s all fundraised, we don’t get anything from the HSE or the Government. We have some corporate sponsorship but it’s mainly due to leg work, due to community groups, individuals going out and doing their fundraisers for us,” Breda revealed.
One of the big challenges that face the support group is ensuring people know that the service exists and more importantly that it is completely free: “A lot of people think that maybe you need to have a medical card- but that doesn’t matter. Anyone can call us- we are free to everybody”. Anyone interested in finding out more about the Kerry Cancer Support Group, or interested in using any of its services can call Breda on 066-7195560 or log on to http://www.kerrycancersupport.com.