Loughborough Cancer Self Help Group

Loughborough Cancer Self Help Group

Originally published in September-October 2004 icon

The Art of Positive

Loughborough Cancer Self Help Group

Anyone touched by cancer needs self help and support but rarely do they desire and delight in it as much as In Loughborough. The group that meets here weekly has unfurled a rich programme of healing, Indian head massage, shiatsu, visualisation, acupuncture, tears, laughter and sheer good fun. The atmosphere crackles with positivity and survivor can-do. Set up 20 years ago when such groups were still as rare as dragons teeth, this leading-light Loughborough league has, over time, brought on board a ’Who’s Who’ of complementary advisors from healer Matthew Manning and hypnotherapist Dr Arthur John to holistic Dr Patrick Kingsley. It has soaked up the wisdom of Bernie "Peace, Love and Healing" Siegel and geopathic stress specialist Roger Coghill. Days out to meditate in a Japanese garden, learn about crystals or savour a boat trip are always well subscribed.

Open quotesThe atmosphere crackles with positivity and survivor can-doClose quotes


"When I didn’t know where to turn I came here and met people in the same situation as me who were actually smiling" says Joan. As well they might for a fair number of members has long outlived the span gloomily predicted by their consultants. On hand to inspire the hesitant newcomer is Dave, 44, who sends his specialist a tongue-in-cheek Christmas card each year "from the other side". Five years ago Dave, misdiagnosed with a very aggressive bowel cancer was told he had months at best to live. "I came here and got a lot of inspiration from people with very poor prognoses who had defied the odds. My latest medical news is not so good and I’m now having chemo so it’s Round 2 but I want to keep on proving the doctors wrong."


Former nurse Sheila lost her husband to stomach cancer within three months of diagnosis when she was only 49. Arriving at the group after three years in bereavement counselling, she intended to help other sufferers - but found she herself still had to take as well as give. "At my first group meeting, the healer called me over and said "Sit in that chair, close your eyes and relax’. I was very cynical and only agreed to shut the silly woman up. As she worked I began to feel hot and tingly. I cried and cried, Something very significant happened to me that night. That was 12 years ago and I went on to support patients here and in hospital and eventually stood as Chair for a while. Five or six years ago we became a small charity .

And this year at the National Conference for Self Help Groups, Loughborough’s self-effacing co-founder Joyce Walton, received a special award for her 20 years of service. It was a great moment of recognition for the petite 72 year old dynamo, who was virtually given life’s P45 when she contracted ovarian cancer in 980. Back then cancer services were truly in the dark ages: Assured immediately post-surgery that her tumour did not look malignant Joyce (an infant teacher who practised yoga and was vegetarian) was then told otherwise by the doctor as he pulled out her stitches in a full ward. The day she went home she had an unhelpful visit from the vicar who, "dressed in a black cloak like the Angel of Death" asked if she was ready to die. "I wasn’t at all" chuckles Joyce.

Open quotesStretched to the limits, the nurses had no time to talk and people were very frightenedClose quotes


In-patient radiotherapy first prompted Joyce to consider a group: "I was on a ward with patients ambulanced down to the Royal Infirmary Leicester for job-lot radiotherapy. Stretched to the limits, the nurses had no time to talk and people were very frightened. I used to chat, because I’m that sort of person. I’d say "Why don’t you sing a tune in your head and that’ll last the three minutes it takes to give you the radiotherapy."


Joyce was not the first of her friends to contract what was still then the unmentionable disease. Gill, her group co-founder bad survived breast cancer in 974: "Following a straightforward mastectomy Gill just got up and on with life" says Joyce. "She had a terrific personality and if you think I’m positive, Gill was 10 times more so." But in June 1982 Gill was found to have spread in 90 per cent of both lungs. She was unlikely to see Christmas. Gill not only survived to start the group, but enjoyed 23 more quality years, bringing up her family and lecturing in catering. As her tumours at first halted, then (over a long time) shrank until her lungs were clear, Gill would "nag and nag and nag" her specialist with the tapes, books and complementary treatments she knew were helping her. Says Joyce "He began by saying that he didn’t agree with what she was doing, went on to say that he didn’t agree but she’d better not stop and ultimately so revised his views that he was sending patients to our group! Gill felt that she had had so much help that she wanted to pass it on. We started our meeting in rooms above the local health food shop, Taylors, which we had free of charge until we outgrew them. Our programme at the time must have looked incredibly avant-garde.

As if throwing down further challenge to Joyce, cancer struck her second husband John five years ago (her first husband, Mervyn, died suddenly, two years after her ovarian surgery). John (now 82) developed an oesophogeal tumour and, having previously undergone a triple heart bypass was unable to have either surgery or chemotherapy. "He’s done very well on radiotherapy" says Joyce of her spry and active spouse "and he can now eat anything, including apple pie’ Then, three years ago, Joyce herself was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and endured painful surgery. Defying medics who warned that she could have problems eating and talking, Joyce has since foiled two recurrence scares, deploying the "gold light" visualisation she practises with commitment. You might argue that doctors diagnosed her wrong - but something worked.

And so life in the Loughborough cancer self help group goes on with Joyce, as its chief mascot for hope and possibility.

Open quotesYou might argue that doctors diagnosed her wrong - but something workedClose quotes


The evening icon visits, there is, as always, time set aside for anyone wanting healing from Dina, Brian or Joyce’s son Pete.


Dr Carolyn Eddleston, a part-time GP, acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine is talking about energetics and the Chinese way of eating. Soft-spoken, spiritual and serenely pregnant Dr Eddleston discusses the yin and yang of foodstuffs.

Her appealing overall message is that the "how" of eating can matter more than the "what". Each person is given different advice and the fact that this relates to nature and the seasons forces us all just to stop and notice the simple things in life again. "Sometimes when you are seriously unwell and you have been medicalised with traumatic interventions, it’s nice to see the bigger picture."

Further Information

Further information for Loughborough cancer self help group visit their website: http://www.beehive.thisisleicestershire.co.uk; email: [email protected]

Dr Carolyn Eddleston: http://www.cyclesofchange.com.

For Matthew Manning, please contact through his email: [email protected]

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