Prostate cancer support groups go virtual

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Ted Thorne

An online support group has launched at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for patients undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. 

Before coronavirus (COVID-19), the Cancer Centre at Guy’s ran regular prostate cancer support groups to help men and their families affected by the disease. When visitor restrictions were put in place to limit the spread of the virus, particularly among vulnerable people, these groups could no longer meet face-to-face. 

However, thanks to donations to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, the support groups have now moved online and they’re already having a hugely positive effect on patients. 

Ted Thorne, from Bromley, south east London, is a prostate cancer survivor. He had his prostate removed at the Cancer Centre at Guy’s in February 2018 and has since found great benefit from support groups for men living with the illness and their families. 

Ted, 75, said: “They have speakers come to cover a range of topics such as the diagnosis and what that means, what to expect from surgical procedures, the psychological effect that these things have on a family, the physical repercussions and exercises.

“We’ve found it very encouraging, meeting all the other people and learning from them. There are many different ways of treating prostate cancer and you hear all the different stories, and no two stories are the same. It’s sharing the experience and not being on your own with it, that’s the key.”

Ted and his wife, Susie, who attends with him, were disappointed when they discovered that the groups at the hospital had to stop. But it wasn’t long before they were told that the meetings were going online.

 “The virtual groups have been brilliant,” said Ted. “There are cancer patients from all over and outside London, even from as far down as Folkestone and Southend, and it was sometimes hard for everyone to attend groups at the hospital. The online meetings mean anybody can join in, so nobody is left out.”

There are a variety of different online sessions available for patients, including exercise, relaxation and stress management, as well as a Q&A on the impact coronavirus may have on prostate cancer. There are also general hangout meetings for members to get together, have a chat and take part in quizzes. 

The grandfather of two said: “It’s like a family, it really is. The spouses are all involved because it impacts them as well, it impacts the whole family. 

“That’s another reason the online meetings are so great, because the whole family can join in. If there was somebody who was worried about their husband dying from prostate cancer and they come into a meeting and see all the survivors on the screen, having a good time and a bit of fun and banter, it can put their minds at rest.”

The sessions are organised by project coordinator Daniela Merlin and clinical nurse specialist Louisa Fleure. 

Louisa said: “It was devastating to us and to our patients when we found we could no longer provide the support groups at the hospital due to coronavirus.

“Our patients have been so grateful for the opportunity to stay connected and continue to receive support from their groups. Most are shielding so the opportunity to meet and share experiences, get support and have some fun as well has been invaluable.

“The exercise sessions ensure that physical, as well as mental and emotional wellbeing, remain important. And the sessions we’ve run on coronavirus have also helped relieve some of the anxiety around the situation we find ourselves in.”

The prostate cancer virtual support groups have been made possible by donations to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. To donate, visit the Support GSTT website.

Last updated: October 2020

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