Mill Wheel drop-in sessions have made all the difference to Stephanie

Mill Wheel - Marion Page, Lillian Nevelle, and Stephanie Davies

A Leyland woman says attending a unique drop-in service offered by St Catherine’s Hospice at The Mill has helped her tackle feelings of social isolation after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Stephanie Davies, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in December 2013, also credits the charity for helping her open up and find the courage to ask important questions about her illness.

Stephanie was initially referred to Day Therapy at St Catherine’s in Lostock Hall, which offers a wide range of medical, nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy treatments, as well as complementary therapies such as reflexology and massages.

She says the sessions boosted her confidence and enabled her to address concerns surrounding her diagnosis, but admitted she ‘felt lost’ when her time in Day Therapy came to an end.

Then she found out about a new drop-in support service based at The Mill café and community hub in the hospice grounds, called the Mill Wheel, which has helped her build on the progress she made through Day Therapy.

Stephanie explained: “I attended Day Therapy at the hospice and then started coming to the Mill Wheel drop-in sessions, and the support I have received has given me the strength to write down the important questions I needed to ask, and get the answers.

“When I was diagnosed, I didn’t think I would be here for the following Christmas. But after getting the answers I needed, I realised that I have many years left and can enjoy a good quality of life.

“St Catherine’s has been my rock, and I’ve also been able to reach out and help other people through coming here. It’s just fantastic.”

The Mill Wheel drop-in service was launched to offer people living with life-shortening illnesses an opportunity to meet others in similar situations, as well as get advice and support from volunteer advisors and enjoy social activities. It is held in an upstairs function room at The Mill, where therapy sessions such as yoga and Thai Chi are also hosted.

The initiative is set to continue following a successful six-month pilot scheme and Stephanie, a retired nurse, is encouraging people living with life-shortening illnesses to see if the Mill Wheel could help them too.

“I now have other things to think about, like new friends and interests,” she said. “It’s a wonderful form of support coming here; it’s company and it gives me conversations outside of my sickness.”

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She added: “Even when you’re surrounded by family and friends, when you’re living with a terminal illness, you can feel very isolated and it can be a lonely existence.

“The Mill Wheel sessions also give me chance to speak about what’s troubling me, without feeling like I’m worrying my family and friends all the time.

“It also made me realise that I’m not alone in what I’m going through. The staff and volunteers at St Catherine’s have treated me as a human being rather than a patient, and it’s made such a difference.”

Volunteer advisors Marion Page, from Clayton-le-Woods, and Lillian Neville, from Adlington, also experience the benefits of the fortnightly sessions.

Lillian said: “I really enjoy my time here; it’s good to chat with people and do activities. It’s very flexible as to what we do each time and it depends on who’s here and what they fancy doing. We do word games, puzzles, arts and crafts, or sometimes we just have coffee and biscuits and a good chat.

“You find that people are willing to share their stories with each other too, perhaps more than they do with their family and friends. I think people can find that some of their old friends stop visiting after they’ve been diagnosed with an illness like cancer, because they don’t know what to say anymore.

“Here though people can open up and offer advice to each other in a non-judgemental environment.”

Lynn Kelly, director of knowledge exchange services at St Catherine’s Hospice, added: “The Mill is an innovative way of introducing people to the hospice who may be wary and unsure about what it’s like here.

“The café is a welcoming, non-clinical environment where people can seek support and advice about the care and services provided by the charity through our volunteer advisors, away from the main hospice building.

“The idea for the Mill Wheel came on the back of the success of the Mill Advisors scheme, offering people a dedicated drop-in session where they can meet other people and speak about their circumstances and experiences, in a friendly and familiar environment.”

The Mill Wheel, which runs on the first and third Mondays of the month from 10am until noon, is open to anyone facing a life-shortening illnesses, their loved ones and carers.

People are asked to each pay £1.20 to cover the cost of refreshments. There is no need to book, but anyone interested in finding out more can call 01772 629171 or email education@stcatherines.co.uk.

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