Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Cancer – It could be you

Cancer can happen to anyone. It’s not the lifestyle we lead (although being overweight and drinking too much doesn’t help) – even the slimmest, fittest, vegetarian teetotallers get it. The NHS now says that one in three of us will end up with the disease, but we live longer today, and mostly it’s an older person’s disease. The good news is that millions have had it, and they are still alive.

If you do get it, one of my doctors advised, “make a fuss and demand the best treatment”, and you will have a far better outcome, particularly with today’s NHS and its cost-cutting ethos. For best advice, research the web; yes, there are charlatans out there, but a good journo will sniff them out. Most reliable information generally comes from American sites e.g. American Society for Clinical Oncology, MD Anderson (probably biggest cancer hospital in World), Dana-Farber and their other superb hospitals.

If you want the best treatment, go to France. Most medical authorities place them at the top of survivorship stakes. UK, alas, is down at around 25th in Europe. Being treated on the NHS can be a battle of wills, ending up with conflict. It’s often a case of receptionist/GP/hospital versus little old you. Told to save money, the NHS looks for ways – so make sure it isn’t over your treatment. If you can, carry medical insurance. The CIoJ’s approved company, HCMA, is well worth looking in to.

Many find that although they recover from cancer, it still takes its toll. You will be desperately tired, and fatigue is cumulative. Drugs contain poisons to kill off cancer cells, and they don’t mind giving a massive kick to your body along the way. Although we get benefits if we can’t work, these don’t provide mental stimulus, you don’t feel valued and tend to stagnate – not good news.

There needs to be better care post-cancer for those who want to get back to work, but find they have problems such as disabilities. Perhaps this is where the Institute could help?

Tired patients learn to use their time wisely, which includes shopping online. We all have IT skills, and tend to use our laptops to help run our lives; from discovering farm shops that will deliver seasonal, healthier food to investigating all the things you can buy for your life, from light bulbs to garden compost online.

Whilst sitting at home, I was working with someone from Macmillan looking at ways of using IT skills if you wanted home work. This came to an end. Charities like Macmillan are very good at advising you what you can do healthwise, claiming benefits, etc, but learning new skills to get back to work is beyond their remit. So if someone wants to set up a website to sell products, there must be freelances who could help with market research, website design and set-up, arranging affiliate programmes. Currently I am hoping to set up a website to sell specific skincare;  and there is room for farm shops, helpful clothing, etc.

Cancer patients can work at midnight and sleep all day (drugs upset sleep patterns). With growth in online shopping increasing daily, most members probably have skills and contacts that could be offered to all sorts of clients, via Scope, Cancer Research UK, etc.

Job Centres too often get asked to help, but are scared of the word “disability”. Centres promise the earth when it comes to helping find work, but having tried several, their best offer was “you need a mentor” and sending me a list, all with hefty hourly rates. So, perhaps this could be where the CIOJ steps in? Devise a course on “Setting up your own selling website”.

Keep it to a one-day course; disabled people often are extremely busy waiting around in hospital outpatients’ departments! Then tell charities what you can offer. The CIoJ has journalists working in most areas, and could charge a reasonable amount for short courses. And if you want to know where to hold it, try Guys Hospital. They have a tailor-made area in their brand new Cancer Centre.

Verite Reily Collins