A RECENTLY retired driving instructor, who lives with life limiting secondary pancreatic cancer, has backed a new West Cumbrian community cancer service as providing vital additional support to all those living with cancer.

Carolyn Pickering, 62, from Tirril near Penrith, recently retired after almost 40 years as a driving instructor. She was forced to retire last year following her diagnosis of secondary pancreatic cancer that can be managed with a course of targeted daily chemotherapy tablets, but not cured.

The service has been launched in partnership with national charity Macmillan Cancer Support and the local NHS in West Cumbria and will support people living with cancer in the community with tailored cancer care, support and advice and with a focus on the psychological and physical impact of cancer.

It has been in development for the last two years and is being piloted during the Covid-19 pandemic to help address the negative impact of the continued social distancing restrictions felt by cancer patients.

Carolyn’s recent diagnosis follows years of arduous surgery which began with the removal of a kidney due to kidney cancer in 2002. This had initially been diagnosed as the menopause after she experienced hot flushes. Years before this she experienced acute pain and was being treated for IBS which it later transpired, as a result of a partial hysterectomy in 2003, was endometriosis

She said: “I really care about people and enjoy their company and loved being a driving instructor.

“It is one of my great regrets that after starting my career in 1981 I’ve missed out on completing 40 years’ service as a result of the cancer diagnosis I received in April last year.

“Covid-19 for me has been a double whammy, with the shock of the secondary pancreatic cancer diagnosis, and the effort to be positive, to make the most of the time I have left, at the same time as having to put my life on hold for the time being because of the pandemic – it’s very frustrating.”

Lynsey Robson, Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “In Cumbria, and West Cumbria in particular, we have a higher than national average ageing population with higher cancer incidences. Residents can find it more difficult to access specific support, and this has been made more pressing by social distancing restrictions.

“As the normal social interaction many of us depend on for our wellbeing isn’t possible due to the pandemic, it’s become even more vital that people living with cancer are given the tailored support they need; support that can vary greatly depending on the specific needs of the individual and their cancer journey.”

People in Allerdale and Copeland who feel they would benefit from this service should approach their GP or Clinical Nurse Specialist for the referral.

If any patients, carers, or members of the public would like to help, inform or develop the service then please email: NorthEngagementLeads@macmillan.org.uk. A questionnaire has also been published which can be viewed here.