Grantham Journal Big Interview: Cancer survivor’s ‘guardian angel’

Tracey Longmuir from Corby Glen.
Tracey Longmuir from Corby Glen.
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After being diagnosed with mouth cancer just after Christmas 2013, a single mother from Corby Glen has praised the vital help she received from the British Red Cross and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Thanks to a joint initiative between the two charities, cancer patients like Tracey Longmuir are able to receive regular visits from volunteers who can provide practical help such as shopping and collecting prescriptions.

Moreover, as Tracey highlights, they offer companionship and emotional support to patients and their families, and since the start of this year have helped more than 180 people across south Lincolnshire.The Journal spoke to Tracey to find out more.

Tell us about your experience at the end of last year.

It was December 23 when I woke up in the middle of the night in agony. I had previously suffered from lingual tonsils but the pain was coming from a different place in my mouth. I checked my symptoms online and went straight to the doctors that morning. I’m not a drinker or a smoker and I was then aged under 40, so I thought ‘don’t be daft’. But I was diagnosed with mouth cancer on January 3. The doctor said I should get things in order and I didn’t know how to take this. I held it together in the room - it was only when I left that I literally fell to the floor like a sack of spuds. I was crying uncontrollably but my friend picked me up and took me into a side room. That was where I first met a Macmillan nurse. She helped calm me down and talked to me about the treatment I would receive.

I understand you were discharged very quickly after your operation?

Yes I wanted to get back home to my son Conor who was then just two. My mum Caryl came and cared for me. I had a good support network but it is difficult for family members. When you’re poorly, everyone who loves you wants you to feel better. You don’t want to tell them how bad you really feel. You want to protect them and keep a brave face.

And this is where the Red Cross volunteers stepped in?

Yes I was put in touch with Lynn Robinson from the Red Cross through a support group. Lynn was a breath of fresh air and told me everything I needed to know. When you are diagnosed you are given so much stuff to read, but she told me what information I needed and the support that is out there. She reminded me how ill I really was, and told me I wasn’t to walk to the doctor’s surgery as she could arrange for people to take me. Lynn and other volunteers came out and helped with the shopping, walking the dog and financial advice. The biggest help was working with Conor’s nursery to make sure he could still go. And just having someone else, more detached, for me and my mum to speak to. You feel so much better after talking to the volunteers. By saying it out loud you’re almost self-counselling yourself.

For now I’ve been given the all clear, but it has been a bit of a whirlwind. Lynn has been my guardian angel and literally scooped me up. I’m a pretty independent person, but if that phone call hadn’t happened, I never would have gotten through it.

* If you think you or a family member could benefit from the service, or to volunteer, call 0845 0547171 or email firstcall@redcross.org.uk