Peter B's Story (Coping & Resilience Course)

“Going through cancer and its treatment is a very lonely and difficult place to be,” says Peter, one of the patients currently accessing our new range of Living Well services. “You need strategies for managing both the emotional and the physical side of it, and that’s what the Coping and Resilience course gave me.”

Our Coping and Resilience course is part of our new Living Well service, which is designed to support patients and carers who are living with an advanced or terminal illness, and who need some help coping with everyday life. The Living Well service offers a range of different courses and therapies, each of which focus on a different aspect of care – some help improve patients’ physical strength, movement and stamina, while others promote mental relaxation, give tips on managing stress and anxiety, provide practical advice on taste and dietary changes, or offer patients and their carers a creative way to express their feelings, through art, gardening or cooking.

Living with an advanced or terminal illness can be difficult emotionally as well as physically. The Coping and Resilience sessions teach patients a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, mindfulness and counselling techniques and strategies which can help them to manage their ongoing symptoms and treatment, and build resilience to reduce their emotional distress. They can also learn to deal with any changes which they may experience in their physical ability, body image and relationships with others.

“As I progressed through my treatment and the side effects it brought with it, I knew I needed additional emotional support beyond what I was getting from my family and friends,” says Peter.

At our Coping and Resilience course, Peter learnt coping techniques and met other people in the same situation as him, whom he could share common experiences and feelings with.

“The course follows a group structure,” explains Peter, “with course leaders – one from Phyllis Tuckwell and one who was an NHS specialist – leading the sessions. Each week they would focus on a different element of coping and resilience, almost like in a classroom. It was very interactive – we were challenged with questions, and we asked our own questions and worked together.”

As well as learning coping techniques, the group support at the sessions helped to dispel Peter’s feelings of isolation.

“The course taught me how to deal with the emotional side of managing and coping with my illness, but equally important was relating to the other people there. Sometimes you think that you’re the only individual person who has your condition and ailments and side effects and so on, and suddenly you meet other people and they’re talking the same language as you are – and they have an understanding of exactly what you’re going through because they’re going through it too. It left me feeling that I’m not singled out for this horrible disease.”

“The course has finished now, but it was life-changing. I still practice some of the strategies that we discussed. I learnt about the power of positive thinking – how you can look at something negatively, or put a spin on it and make it more positive. How you can make sure you’re making the best value of your time, allowing yourself to relax and rest, and accepting that rest is not a failure, it’s actually part of your treatment process. When I first started coming to the sessions I felt very weak, I couldn’t understand why every other cancer patient seemed to be stronger than me, and able to cope better, to do more. I was in not a great place. Very negative words like failure and loneliness were at the forefront of my thinking, but through the sessions they were able to switch everything around to say ‘well look what you’re going through, look how you’re managing, you’re not failing, you’re actually achieving an awful lot to go through this’. So that put an entirely different spin on my thought processes, and turned me from thinking that I was a very weak individual who couldn’t manage or cope with this treatment, to thinking ‘well, I AM managing it’. The strategies and messages were very powerful. At every single session, there was always something that I got out of it and thought ‘yes, that makes sense, I acknowledge that and will take that on’. I’m much more content with my lot in life now. I spend more time considering where I am today and how I want to lead my life.”

“Phyllis Tuckwell has changed my life. They have so much expertise that they’re able to see first-hand what people like me are going through, so when I start to say how I’m feeling, they’re able to have an appreciation of that and say ‘this is why you feel that way and this is what you need to do’, because they’ve seen it before and they have that experience. I would have got through the cancer treatment without them, but not in a great emotional state. Phyllis Tuckwell gave me a perspective on where I was at and enabled me to accept what I was going through, and for that I’m forever grateful.”

Our Coping and Resilience course is run in partnership with ‘Talk Plus’.