Skin cancer counselling is in demand on Wearside - and here's how you can get help from a 24/7 support group
A support group for people with skin cancer has faced a huge rise in calls – and its founder is a Wearside woman who has faced a melanoma herself.
Referrals to the Melanoma-Me Foundation have increased almost six fold since the start of the pandemic.
But officials today promised other members of the public who also need support and said: “‘We are here 24/7’.”
Melanoma is a fast growing cancer that begins on the skin and easily spreads to organs. Figures show Melanoma-Me held 90 support sessions for people wanting counselling in July last year.
But that went up to 390 in both face-to-face and online support by October 2020 and to 520 per month by November 2020, according to the group’ latest figures.
Studies also show that the age group also needing the most support was the 26-35 age range followed by those aged 36-45.
Melanoma-Me was formed when group founder Kerry Rafferty, from Washington, fought melanoma herself six years ago. It was first based in Hendon and then Washington before moving to Birtley but it still covers Sunderland and the North East.
Thanks to Kerry. Melanoma-Me is there to help people by providing everything from awareness to counselling (both patients and loved ones.)
These days, Melanoma-Me and its work to help others is Kerry’s driving force. “We have 10 counsellors and it is a 24/7 job. I never ever switch off. I work from 7am to 11pm because it is my passion.”
But much of the foundation’s work at the moment is supporting those who come for counselling.
Kerry believes the rise in numbers is partly because of increased anxiety in lockdown and people not being able to mix with family.
Kerry added: “Waiting for results can be stressful and that is when we open our doors.”
Others who come forward can be those who have had a diagnosis, or people in remission.
Much of the foundation’s work is done in the Wearside and Northumberland area but it has also opened up its services nationwide. Around 30 people in other parts of the country have received support.
Melanoma-Me can offer one-to-one support and peer support sessions.
It has also started a programme called ‘self love and compassion’ and Kerry explained: “People who have a diagnosis can fall out of love with themselves and we are working on that. We are introducing things like personal development.
"We encourage people to live in the moment. We can not guarantee what is going to happen tomorrow. Live your life and enjoy it.”
The delayed awards honoured people and groups for their work before Covid-19.
The awards night heard: “Thanks to this team, awareness of Melanoma is growing across schools, the health care industry and the beauty profession.”
Kerry said: “We were not expecting to get an award but we are buzzing.”
For more about Melanoma-Me, visit https://melanoma-me.org.uk/