Originally published in November 2003 icon
By the end of this year some 220,000 people will have been newly diagnosed with cancer in England.
The majority will be looked after by a relative or friend.
Many of these carers will have their lives turned upside down, but who can they turn to for support in this new role?
Who cares for the cancer carers during or after a period of caring?
For two years 2Higher Ground has been doing just that. Every carer or former carer of a cancer patient in England has access to seven hours of free coaching. This focused, short-term intervention is easy to fit into even the busiest schedule. Although in some areas, face-to-face coaching is available, most clients prefer half-hour phone sessions. Carers helped by the charity range in age from 26 to 65, and 76 per cent are women - most combining work and caring.
The charity's objectives are to make a positive difference to the lives of carers and former carers of cancer patients; to help them successfully combine employment and caring, if they choose; and to demonstrate the value of the service and the need for it to be available through mainstream provision.
Clients report that the coaching makes them better able to cope with uncertainty and change, to care better, to find ways to balance competing demands, and to adjust to a loss.
It's no surprise that carers benefit from this service. More surprising is that it was not available before.
It's no surprise that carers benefit from this service
When Carol Rees was thrust into a caring role in 1996 there was no one to help. She was working as a project manager when her husband was suddenly diagnosed with kidney cancer.
She supported him and juggled her job, until he died in 1997, aged just 33. Carol threw herself back into work, but 13 months later realised she had no sense of purpose. She recalls, "I didn't know what I wanted and couldn't find help to work it out".
Carol negotiated eight months off, went on a pilgrimage and started training in life coaching. This was her turning point. She realised such coaching would be of great benefit to carers, and people rebuilding their lives. She returned to work but spent her evenings working on her new project, 2Higher Ground. In March 2002 she resigned to concentrate on the charity.
The original concept was to help individuals raise their heads and regain some control over their lives, "from higher ground you can see further, put things into perspective and feel better about whatever situation you find yourself in". This makes a significant difference to someone just about coping. As one carer gratefully acknowledges, "I was becoming overwhelmed with the demands of work, caring and decisions to be made. Coaching has helped prevent me sinking into depression."
Carol on Higher Ground with new
husband Peter Christmas
Supported by the charity's trustees and 25 qualified life coaches, 2 Higher Ground's priorities are to reach more clients and deliver the service effectively, in partnership with other service providers.
The charity also has to raise around 200 per client, plus running costs. Most of this money comes from donations and small grants, but keep an eye on the website in 2004 for opportunities to help with fund raising.
If you are a carer, or former carer, of someone with cancer and want coaching, or if you want to make a donation, call 07977 444130, fax 0700 580 3158 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website (donated by a grateful client) is www.2higherground.org.uk.