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A man diagnosed with blood cancer has been telling about how an award winning service for patients with advanced cancer has given him an improved quality of life and helped manage his pain.
Brain McKenna, 60, from Haydock was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2017. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer in the body’s bone marrow, affecting numerous parts of the body.
When the pain caused by his symptoms and the side-effects of his treatment began to severely affect his life, Brian and his wife Julie, 53, were referred to The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre’s Enhanced Supportive Care Team.
Enhanced Supportive Care (ESC) is a national initiative, now delivered in 19 cancer centres in England. Earlier this month The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, which began the initiative in 2016 following initial pilot studies elsewhere, was awarded the prestigious HSJ Value Award for Specialist Service Redesign for its work in improving quality of life for patients with advanced cancer.
ESC has been helping patients with incurable cancer to stay healthier for longer and have a better quality of life by providing personalised advice and support, such as nutrition, wellbeing and managing pain. Patients who remain healthier tend to need less intervention so ESC has also been cost saving for the NHS.
Brian said: “At Christmas time, I turned to Julie and said to her “If dying is painful, I know what it’s like to die.
“Before being referred for ESC, it was unbearable. I couldn’t put my arms above my head, I couldn’t sleep properly and the only way I could was by lying on the sofa propped up with cushions. I was also sweating profusely, having to change my clothes 3 or 4 times a day. It was no way to live.”
The ESC Team, which is based at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool, the Trust’s flagship city centre hospital, is led by Dr Dan Monnery, Consultant in Palliative Medicine.
Julie says: “Brian could never put into the words the pain he was feeling. But after talking to his Clinical Nurse Specialist Justine, we received a phone call from Dr Monnery. He listened, understood and was able to actually describe the right words for the pain Brian felt. He explained in detail what the pain was and why Brian had it.”
Medication to help ease Brian was delivered the very next day and the team have been in constant touch with the couple to amend the medication to suit Brian’s needs.
As well as clinical support, the ESC Team have been able to provide emotional and practical support to both Brian and Julie.
“Brian has a fear of scans. And his diagnosis means he’s been through many of them in a short space of time. A member of the ESC Team put on a lead vest and accompanied Brian to his PET CT scan to help alleviate his fears. That’s going above and beyond for your patients.”
The couple, who have been together for 32 years and have four grown up children between them, credit the ESC Team with being able to enjoy a much better quality of life, including caravan holidays in North Wales and their daughter’s recent 21st birthday party.
“Without Dr Monnery and his team, I’d still be on the sofa, in pain” explains Brian. “They’ve also been a huge support to Julie, who has become my full time carer. If she needs someone to talk to or some advice, Dr Monnery, Justine and the rest of the team are always there. The care I’ve received right through Clatterbridge Cancer Centre has been absolutely amazing and I’m very grateful to them all.”
Dr Monnery added:
“ESC is one of The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre’s biggest successes of recent times in palliative care and is now being rolled out across the country. The project highlights the huge contribution it is making to patients like Brian and his family, whilst at the same time reducing demand on services.”
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