As Cancer Help marks its 30th year, Natalie Walker talks to cancer survivors and patients who have needed the support of the charity's services.
It is not just the care given to cancer patients that makes Cancer Help so special - it is the level of support given to other family members.
One couple who have realised the true value of this is husband and wife George and Sandra Turner, who have both battled cancer and have benefitted from both sides of the support.
They first attended Vine House in 2012 when George, 70, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then four years later, George became Sandra’s support, as she found out she had malignant melanoma for the second time.
George, of Lytham, said: “I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 and was told about a local support group for prostate cancer called The Walnut Group, which gives support to both patients and carers. We meet the first Wednesday of the month at Vine House.
Sandra and I both went, not knowing what to expect and we got a lot of support from them. Through this group I became involved with Vine House and Cancer Help.
“Before I retired I was a fund-raising manager at Galloway’s Society for the Blind and so I supported Cancer Help with fund-raising activities.
“Sandra and I continued our relationship with the charity. At first I was a patient and then when Sandra was diagnosed with cancer again, the roles were reversed and I was there as her partner and supporter.
“You can’t put a value on the sort of help you get. The word cancer is something everyone recognises and it touches so many lives but you never think it is going to be you. It was a crushing blow when it did happen to us.
“The help it gives to carers when a partner is diagnosed with cancer is amazing. People don’t always realise the impact it has on a partner as the focus is on the patient. It is a journey people have to go through together. They each need different levels of support, which is offered at Cancer Help.
“Cancer Help is one of Preston’s best kept secrets and Croston House at Garstang also does a tremendous amount of work.”
Sandra, 67, said: “I was first diagnosed with malignant melanoma in my knee in 1999. The lump was removed and I was told everything will be fine and I just needed a couple of checkups.
“Then two years ago I noticed a spot on my knee and I was given various steroids but something was not quite right. I saw a consultant and had a biopsy where it was revealed to be another malignant melanoma. A core had been left in the knee and had lain dormant over the years until it came back.
“It was a rough blow for the two of us. I had a lot of support from Cancer Help and used their complementary therapies.”
George had his prostate removed at the end of last year and Sandra attends checkups every three months after the cancer was taken out of her knee.
George added: “We continue to get support from The Walnut Group and Cancer Help.
“The door is always open if we want to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. We are always made to feel welcome.”
Sandra added: “Some of our best friends are those we have met through Cancer Help. We never feel like we are on our own. There is always someone to put their arm around you.
“We also try to help the charity in as many ways as we can, such as taking clothes to its charity shop, helping to raise money and attending its events.”
Working in cancer services for more than seven years, Laura Stephenson never imagined she would need them herself.
The 34-year-old, who took on the role of head of fund-raising at Cancer Help in January, was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the end of April.
She said: “I never thought it would happen to me. Even though by 2020 one in two people will have cancer, I never thought I would be one of them.
“I was pregnant with twins, who have now turned one, and I just thought the symptoms, such as tiredness, loose stools and going to the toilet all the time, was due to being pregnant.
“But when you are pregnant your immune system is a lot lower.
“I had a colonoscopy and they found a tumour. I am having chemotherapy at the moment, but doctors are not confident about it getting removed. It has spread to my liver and I have lymph nodes on my lung.
“But I am not going to sit back and do nothing. I have changed my diet, cutting out processed foods, red meat, alcohol and dairy. I have also cut out sugar as it is like putting fuel on fire.
“I am also having a special honey which keeps the white blood cells level.
“I do yoga once a week and I do rebound therapy, where you jump on a trampoline or slow jog on it for 20 minutes a night. It opens up the lymph nodes so toxins can leak out.
“I have a really strong faith and go to church every Sunday. That has played a massive part.
“I have three children - I am not going anywhere. I need to keep positive because negativity affects the body in a bad way and there is less chance of beating it.”
Laura, of Fulwood, added her experiences are now helping her to provide even more support at Cancer Help.
She said: “It has given me a much better understanding and I know what help and support is needed.
“For example, chemotherapy has given me mouth ulcers which makes it hard to talk.
DWP in Blackpool has funded 100 toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash which we will leave at the chemotherapy ward at Rosemere, with a leaflet about Cancer Help.
“Cancer Help is a vital service to people, but not many know about it so I want to do more to get the word out.”