GORT Cancer Support Centre has appealed for sponsorship to facilitate a new course on the use of information technology for cancer sufferers.
Cancer centre manager Carmel Kerins explains that a lot of cancer patients have to give up full-time work during their illness but would love to learn new skills, such as how to use a computer.
All the money donated to the centre is specifically ring-fenced for services. To comply with this policy guideline, the centre is hoping to acquire good quality laptops or cash donations that will be put aside for this purpose.
The centre is also considering resuming the men’s card game social night for male cancer sufferers, which ran very successfully about two years ago.
While men and women benefit from all activities and facilities at the centre, Ms Kerins explained they felt it was necessary to organise something that was particularly appealing for men.
“Men have come to the centre in recent years before moving on to something else. There was a lot of men who would not come in for therapy or to tell you about their cancer but would attend for a regular card game once a week that often went on for hours on end.
“The centre doesn’t like to specify something is for men or women only. But sometimes it is easier to get men to attend something in the centre if it is geared for men only,” she explained.
In addition to its drop-in centre, the facility provides a range of services, including guest speaker information evenings, tai chi, light mediation and mindfulness, arts and crafts, a carer’s group, counselling and psychotherapy. It also offers confidential support, complementary therapies, a free transport service, a weekly support group and financial assistance, as well as a variety of social activities and events.
Other services include professional expertise from a lymph drainage specialist, a bra-fitting and prosthesis specialist and a reflexologist.
Plans are underway to secure the services of a dietician and a podiatrist by appointment to look after clients’ feet, as this can be a huge problem after chemotherapy.
The recent opening of the new €60,000 studio has ensured that the centre has adequate space to hold popular group activities, such as tai chi and art classes.
Its main objective is to provide support and coping skills to anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis in the South Galway and North Clare areas by providing people with a home-from-home environment, where they will be made to feel relaxed and welcome.
A coffee morning is hosted at the centre on the last Friday of each month from 10.30am to 12.30pm. This is an opportunity for the public to meet volunteers and view the facilities and services on offer.
Although the cancer support centre is managed and operated by trained volunteers, with the assistance of administrative staff and paid professional therapists, Ms Kerins explains that it needs someone to manage the service on a voluntary basis. The committee of 13 people is very varied and comprises of people from all walks of life.
Ms Kerins said it is a privilege to sit and listen to cancer sufferers outline their own particular journey, coping and dealing with their condition.
“Sometimes we can get consumed with the running of the centre and fundraising because it operates under strict guidelines of the charity inspectorate. Sometimes maybe we forget what cancer sufferers have gone through. I don’t think we realise what the centre really means to clients. You forget how important the centre really is for clients.”
She said it is very easy to see how valuable the volunteer driving service is for someone who has no means of transport to medical appointments. However, she stressed it is much harder to ascertain the value of the friendships built up between clients attending the centre on a regular basis.
Even though the centre is a registered charity and company, she said it is still expected to operate professionally on the same lines as the hospice association.
The centre has benefited from some very large donations, which has ensured that its new home is debt-free.
In 2007, the centre started off in the old vocational school and was able to acquire its new permanent premises debt-free, following a donation from Pat and Jean Collins. The centre has not been forced to engage in a major fundraising drive, as the donations keep rolling in on a regular basis.
Ms Kerins said it is “humbling” to see what some people are prepared to do to raise funds for the centre.
“People shave their head and dye their hair and engage in all sorts of activities to get the money for us. We are extremely lucky and very grateful for all the money that is donated to the centre,” she said.
The last major fundraising venture organised by the centre was a fashion show in the Lady Gregory Hotel, Gort.
By Dan Danaher