Sheenagh Stapleton was diagnosed with stage 4B Ovarian Cancer (the most advanced category for this type of cancer) in March 2017 she describes the impact cancer has across all aspects of her life and how treatment on a mobile cancer care unit made things so much easier for her.
Sheenagh was born in Yorkshire and has spent most of her 63 years there, albeit with a 17 year stint spent in Spain. Now based in the tiny village of Long Preston, she knows only too well the joys and the challenges of a rural life.
“Cancer touches everyone and everything in your life, the ripple effect is tremendous”
After life-saving surgery, Sheenagh started a regime of treatment. Initially, this was based at the haematology and oncology day unit (HODU) at Airedale general hospital, a significant drive from her rural home.
“HODU is about 20 miles away from home, it can take anywhere up to an hour to get there and park. Then there was often a bit of a wait before my chemotherapy started. My chemo was quite intensive and could take up to 7 hours.
Chemotherapy is pretty traumatic, it’s hard on the body and it leaves you just wanting to get into bed. I relied on other people to drive me to appointments and home again. Often my mum would take me and one of my sons would bring me home. That meant time away from their own commitments, that ripple effect again!”
When Sheenagh was offered the opportunity to have her chemotherapy on board a Hope for Tomorrow Mobile Cancer Care Unit she had mixed feelings.
“I was nervous about using the unit at first. It was a completely new concept for me, I had no idea services like it existed or how it would work”
That nervousness soon gave way to relief, Sheenagh explains:
“As soon as my chemo moved to the unit I was able to drive myself there and back. I visit the unit in Settle, where it parks in a supermarket carpark. It’s a five minute drive from home and I don’t need to rely on lifts from anyone.
Because I don’t have to wait and there are two nurses to four patients on the unit, the time for my treatment could be as short as 4 hours.”
Sheenagh was able to fit treatments in around her job, managing the office of her local Age UK branch in Craven. The reduced travel wasn’t the only benefit of using the unit and Sheenagh quickly came to think of it as a community hub, rather than a medical appointment.
“It’s quick, convenient and the sense of community is fantastic.”
“You develop a great rapport with the nurses because they have time to chat one-on-one. They can’t do that in HODU, which is for blood transfusions and treatment of blood diseases, as well as cancer. There might be 15-20 other people having treatment there at the same time. The mobile unit is a great meeting place. Because it’s dedicated to cancer care you have that in common with everyone else on board.”
“Although it sounds strange, appointments are actually enjoyable. Being able to chat to other patients, the nurses and the driver distracts you from why you’re there. You can think about something other than the cancer.”
Sheenagh’s treatment regime has changed recently and she currently doesn’t attend outpatient treatment appointments. However, if that changes she says she wouldn’t hesitate to use the mobile cancer care unit in the future.
“It really is a wonderful service, I can’t say how much it’s changed my world.”
The unit Sheenagh received her treatment on board is operated by Airedale NHS Foundation Trust. It costs £198 a day to keep each mobile cancer care unit on the road, and Hope for Tomorrow rely entirely on fundraising and donations to maintain their fleet of 13 units around the UK.
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