Norfolk based cancer charity Big C has opened the doors of its new state-of-the-art Cancer Support Centre in Dereham Road, Norwich. For service-user Russell, the new facility – which has his wife’s name featured in the design – is nothing short of ‘wonderful’
Russell was first referred to Big C in 2017 by his specialist nurses at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) following his bombshell diagnosis of prostate cancer. He decided to drop into Big C’s cancer support centre in the hospital grounds, which he describes as ‘the best thing I did’. Russell also attended monthly meetings of the Norfolk and Waveney Prostate Cancer Support Group which he found extremely helpful, especially sharing experiences with the other members.
Russell says: ‘The nurses and support team at the centre realised the situation I was in and knew how to help. I started to visit the Big C Centre quite regularly, accompanied by my wife Joan for support. I also attended the men’s group, and I was also offered massage therapy which was brilliant to ease my tension. The chats I had were very helpful to steer us on the way and to help us see what the future might be.’
Exactly one year later, Joan herself was very unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer. Russell continues: ‘Again the centre staff helped enormously by providing a ‘listening ear and a helpful voice’ which is how I describe the support Big C provides. There was further help available that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise.’
In early 2020, the pandemic occurred which made things very difficult for the couple. Russell however continued to attend Big C sessions via Zoom including the virtual men’s group and relaxation sessions which helped him to ‘slide out to a holiday in my mind’.
Although her initial treatment for breast cancer went well, Joan was very sadly diagnosed with two types of blood cancer, Hodgkins and T-cell lymphoma. Russell says: ‘The many sessions of chemotherapy that Joan received this time ‘knocked her for six’. If she drifted off to sleep at the hospital, I would wander down to the Big C centre for a short break and a chat.’
Joan’s Hodgkins was successfully treated but the T-cell was resistant. She was then offered some treatment as part of a medical trial which helped to control her symptoms for around 18 months.
Russell continues: ‘The amazing doctors had done everything they could and for the last nine months of her life, Joan didn’t receive any treatment. She sadly passed away in November 2022. Although at the end, I was unable to leave the house, Big C continued to support me.
‘Soon after this time, I discovered I had further health problems and Big C has been there for me every step of the way and for my family too, the charity has been a great support for all of us. I have taken part in several wellness programmes including Get Moving and Nourish & Nurture. I am also now part of the Patient Advisory Board, which helps give feedback to the charity.
‘I have also recently started one of Big C’s new services, which is Walking Football. I must remember to walk and not try to run! My son, Trevor, can take part with me which makes it even more enjoyable and with the others involved it’s great company.
‘This week I visited the wonderful new Norwich City Cancer Support Centre in Dereham Road in Norwich. Behind the walls, on a busy street in the city, is a relaxing oasis with a lovely calming colour palette. The new centre will help so many people at a difficult time in their lives. It will make it more accessible for people who can’t, or may not want to, visit the centre at the hospital to get the help they need.
‘It was a pleasure to see people popping in for a cuppa or an appointment and to see the lovely new facilities. My family sponsored a brick for the pathway in the sensory gardens at the new centre and it meant a lot to me to see Joan’s name featured in the design.’
The new Big C Norwich City Cancer Support Centre features a light, calming central lounge area with comfortable seating and reflective artworks, an open-plan workshop kitchen, private rooms for one-to-one counselling, complementary therapy treatment rooms, The Big C Studio; a bright space for group activities and exercise classes, an intimate alcove library and a sensory wellbeing garden. To access Big C’s support at the new Support Centre, please visit www.big-c.co.uk or call the Big C Support Line on 0800 092 7640 to make an appointment, or simply drop-in 9am – 4.30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays). The new centre is situated at 66-70 Dereham Road, Norwich, NR2 4BU. It has been designed by Norwich architects, Purcell – and a 360 tour has been was created by the innovative team at immersive media specialists, Vortex Visual. To watch, visit threesixty – Big C Cancer Charity (big-c.co.uk).
Featured image of Russell taking part in Big C Walking Football