IN this uncertain climate that we are living in, one thing is for sure. Cancer hasn’t stopped or it hasn’t gone away.
Even though Cork ARC Cancer Support House was forced to close its doors because of the pandemic, it still relies on the public support to help provide its vital services to cancer patients and their loved ones.
“Our doors are remotely open,” says ARC House director Ellen Joyce.
“We are keeping up the contact with people through their lap-tops and phones, offering supports like one-to-one counselling, Tai Chi, Pilates, Hour of Calm and advice on acupuncture that people can practice at home. It is working very well, even though some clients found Zoom challenging,” says Ellen.
“They are more used to face-to-face chats with our staff and volunteers, who are all working in their own homes now and who are still present for advice and consultations. Over time, people got to grips with virtual communication.”
The challenges of cancer are ever-present.
“Enquiries are still at a high number, and new contacts are always catered for,” says Ellen.
“Our nurse helpline is manned by experienced professional nurses, supporting people living with cancer through Covid-19.”
Cork ARC has teamed up with Ireland’s only Celebrity Fittest Family winners, Rob Heffernan and Norma Sheahan, to create ARC2ARC 50 Mile Mission. You can complete the virtual mission anytime, anywhere in the world, at your own pace.
“Fifty miles is the distance between Cork and Bantry ARC houses,” says Ellen.
“The Cork facility caters for people from as far as Waterford and Tipperary. The Bantry facility caters for people in the West Cork region. Our aim is to provide therapies that complement the medical model, so as to make a difference to the lives of those affected by cancer.”
The unwavering support of ARC houses, Cork, Wilton and Knocknaheeny, and Bantry, is essential in these uncertain times.
Ellen’s 20-plus years of working in oncology nursing and management gives her the understanding of the need for the services ARC House provides.
“Last year, we supported over 1,400 people whose lives were affected by cancer and now we need your help more than ever to continue this lifeline of support for cancer patients and their families during this difficult time.”
Times are more difficult if people are lonely or isolated, missing loved ones.
“Circumstances are very difficult for vulnerable people living on their own,” says Ellen.
“We are experiencing a lot of distressed calls, and a lot of sad calls. At the end of the day, the big thing is to be there for people. ARC House provides a safe space.”
When Helena Corbett, from Donnybrook, Douglas, had completed her treatment for breast cancer, going through surgery in January, 2019, ARC House was always there for her, providing a safe place.
“You know, when you are going through a cancer journey it consumes you,” says Helena, who has three grown-up children.
“It is a constant round of medical check-ups, appointments, dealing with symptoms and all the physical stuff with surgeons and consultants. In the middle of it all, you forget about the emotional turmoil you experience.”
Cancer, ever present, is always visible.
“Cancer is visible and you get on with dealing with it,” says Helena.
“It absorbs you.”
Helena, who discovered a lump on her breast after a routine breast check, was positive about dealing with her breast cancer diagnosis.
“I said, now I’m in it,” says Helena.
“It’ll be OK. I was positive.”
And she was OK.
“I knew things could have turned out very differently for me,” says Helena.
“My life could have been a different kind of life.”
It was different.
“Yes. It is like now dealing with Covid-19; we have to get used to a new normal,” says Helena.
“After breast cancer, life became a new normal for me. Life wasn’t going to be the same as before. I was very happy before I got sick. I learned to equate the experience.”
She learned how to reach out for emotional support after cancer affected her life. The call to ARC House might be the most difficult call you’ll make, but it is the most important call you will make to someone who understands.
“I reached out to ARC House to access their fantastic free services,” says Helena.
The ambience and caring atmosphere in ARC House ensures nobody who knocks on the door ever feels isolated.
“It felt like the house was hugging you,” says Helena.
“The atmosphere is so calm and friendly. The staff at ARC House are so caring.”
Helena found the solace and the emotional support she was seeking after cancer invaded her life.
“I rang the bell and immediately got a sense of calm,” says Helena.
She got peace of mind and a feeling of well-being leaving medical worries behind.
“I took part in a mindfulness session, showing me how to do a body scan, allowing me to disengage and to relax,” say Helena.
“I found the mindfulness excellent. Now, at home, I do the sessions myself regularly. And I go online to take part in the Hour of Calm from ARC House.”
ARC House gave Helena a new lease of life after her cancer journey.
“I popped into ARC House at Cliffdale, O’Donovan Rossa Avenue, and then to the new premises at Sarsfield House every Wednesday afternoon,” says Helena.
“I enjoyed a cup of coffee and I enjoyed the social element of it.
“I took part in Pilates classes adapted for people with breast cancer.
“Because I had early menopausal symptoms due to breast cancer, I suffered joint pain. Acupuncture helped with the symptoms, helping to relieve the pain.
“At ARC House I got the chance to switch off, and recharge.”
She discovered everyone needs a helping hand when the going gets tough.
“I had gone through everything on my own,” say Helena. “Not wanting to upset anyone else’s life.
“I think as a mother you want to do everything yourself. I found out if you let others help you, it helps them.”
Helena has helped ARC House, the safe haven that helped her bounce back from breast cancer.
“My two daughters and I took part in the mini-marathon for ARC House. Every penny counts.”
She encourages people to support ARC House continuing to support people and families affected by cancer.
“Get involved in the fun event, ARC2ARC 50 Mile Mission, with your family and friends. It is for a great cause,” she added.
ARC2ARC 50 Mile Mission is an inclusive mission to raise €50,000 for Cork ARC Cancer Support House.
By signing up and nominating two friends to do the same, you are helping cancer patients and their families by ensuring they have the support they need when they need it most. Going that extra mile, fundraising as well, Cork ARC is very grateful.
Take photos and tag Cork ARC on social media, use the hashtag #ARC2ARC. Nominate two of your friends using the peace symbol, asking them to do the same. You can also email photos to: fundraising@corkcancer support.ie
The fundraiser runs until July 28. Entry fee of €20 applies.