Cancer patients are being urged to contact a new helpline if they are in need of extra support.

With more than 14,000 patients at GPs across Cumbria registered with a cancer diagnosis, those behind Living with Cancer and Beyond's helpline service are concerned – with only three calls received during lockdown.

The helpline, which is open every Wednesday and Thursday between 9.30pm and 4.30pm, is available to all those going through cancer treatment, those recently diagnosed with cancer, as well as those caring for loved ones.

And coordinator Jane Macfarlane is concerned, reminding others that support for cancer patients is more vital than ever.

“We know that having a cancer diagnosis is a worrying time, and even more so now with the current pandemic,” she said.

“People are probably focused on the pandemic and trying to think about too many things at once is maybe just too much. They’re trying to make sure they are safe and leaving everything else on hold.

“We’ve got loads of capacity and volunteers ready to help.”

Volunteer Joyce Matthews and husband Andy Whittington know first-hand how difficult it can be without support, after Andy received a devastating diagnosis of terminal kidney cancer in 2014, and died two years later, aged 61.

Joyce said: "It was hard. Our roles within our marriage completely changed from being partners to me taking over the helm and looking after him.

"The psychological aspect was probably the worst, knowing I was going to lose him, and having to prepare for that, not just psychologically but making sure we had everything in place so I could deal with everything."

She continued: “We were lucky that we had two years. We knew it was terminal from the beginning so we did have time to sort things out and talk to each other about it as well.”

And the situation was only made more difficult, as the couple had no support for the first 18 months.

“As his health got worse, we were getting a bit desperate because we felt very alone. We didn’t know what support was available. It became horrendous,” Joyce, 63, said.

The Keswick Hospital nurse and her husband then received the help of a Macmillan nurse, and everything was made easier.

But Joyce said having the support of Living with Cancer and Beyond from the start would have made the diagnosis easier to handle from the outset, and urges everyone going through a similar time to use the helpline.

“Just pick up the phone,” she said. “What the callers I speak to appreciate most is being able to chat. They just want to be able to offload. That’s the biggest benefit of what we provide.

“Sometimes people don’t want to admit to their families that they are struggling, whereas it can be easier to talk to a stranger. It can all come out and that really helps them.

“If you need to talk, give us a ring. We are listeners.”

The scheme – available in the north Cumbria area – is run through Cumbria CVS in partnership with Macmillan, and is funded through the North Cancer Alliance.

For support, call the helpline on 01228 525197 or email Messages can also be left on the helpline numbers outside of its opening times.