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My Name Is NOT Cancer

Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker

A palliative care team can sometimes have the word “Macmillan” in front of it and when people see the title and hear the term, they usually think of Macmillan nurses. They would be right to do this however a Macmillan palliative care team has many components, of which nursing is only one!

There are other team members who are “Macmillan” but not every palliative care team will have them. There are Macmillan Occupational Therapists in some, as well as Macmillan Welfare Rights Workers, Macmillan Specialist palliative care Social Workers (and the list goes on.) In North Wales, there are Macmillan “Relate” counsellors who support people where a diagnosis is affecting relationships.

I am a Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker. The Welsh translation is so long it doesn't fit on my badge!

I like to think, and I know my colleagues would agree with me, that we understand that cancer affects everyone in the family (and wider friendship groups) as well as the person with the diagnosis. This is where I may get involved, especially if people have needs that conflict with each other's needs, making life even more difficult.

I can get involved with any issue (none medical!), which is affecting the wellbeing of the person with the diagnosis, or people they love. Examples of this could be supporting someone in communicating with their employer about what is happening, as people have rights that even an employer may not be aware of.

When people and their families are dealing with a diagnosis, the last thing they need to worry about is their job. Patients and "carers", have rights.

I may also be involved with a young person who goes to school. A young person who may be affected by a diagnosis in the family, may be in a situation where there is very little in common with friends… and that life may no longer seem normal. Teachers in school may be young themselves, and have little experience with serious illness. I support teachers, who support the young people, and support young people and their families directly.

I often get involved in supporting people in their navigation of all the services that are around. There are a lot of services out there, and access to them can seem complicated and sometimes out of reach. I can signpost to welfare rights and the many levels of bureaucracy.

I am there to listen as hard as I can, and bring any experience I have, to support all the priorities and concerns of the person with the diagnosis and the people they care about.

If there are solutions to problems, I try to support the finding of these solutions. However, if there are no solutions, then I walk alongside the person I am supporting, trying to find a way forward.

The Association of Palliative Care Social Workers says:

“The key to Macmillan Specialist Palliative Social Work (MSPCSW) is the desire and ability to see people as whole people and not as a set of problems, to understand the connections of their lives and to seek to act on, rather than ignore the constraints and discrimination they may experience” (Croft. S. Association of Palliative Care Social Workers.

As the quote says; “to see people as whole people and not a set of problems”, is what we aim for.

Sadly, some people diagnosed with cancer are not cured from their disease. I may continue to stay involved, as some of the issues mentioned above may continue to be complex, and families and friends may need support with this, as well as the grief they are experiencing.

When referrals are made to our Macmillan Team (in North Wales), the team members will look at the referral to see if it would be helpful for me to become involved (always with the consent and knowledge of the person with diagnosis
or the family member). Other professionals may refer directly to me, although the process would still be through the Team.

Other parts of Wales and the rest of the UK may have slightly different procedures, and health professionals in your area will know what they are.

By Anne Hignell

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