Cork cancer care centre marks its 10th year

Cork Cancer Care Centre is marking 10 years in operation, writes CHRIS DUNNE, who catches up with their CEO Linda Goggin James to find out about their work in supporting those affected by the illness
Cork cancer care centre marks its 10th year

Christine Cooper, who presented a special Celebration Cake to Linda Goggin James, to congratulate the centre reaching 10 years supporting the community.

THE Cork Cancer Care Centre is a charity which supports women and men who have been directly or indirectly affected by cancer, their carers families and friends. It is celebrating 10 years in operation.

CEO of Cork Cancer Care Centre, Linda Goggin James, is always amused when people come into the premises and are taken aback by the sheer size of the beautiful spaces available to chat, somewhere calm to relax, or who wish to avail of meditation, yoga, or Reiki sessions.

Others can have a talk with James White, counsellor, who specialises in working with depression, anxiety, panic, and stress for both children and adults. Patrick Dillane, a yoga teacher and shaman, is available too.

“The building is very deceiving from the outside,” says Linda, showing me the huge array of knitted blankets and toys gathered in the bright room destined for people who will gain solace and consolation from the comfort of them.

The busy knitters, the Knit & Natter groups, supply their Blankets of Hope to those going through cancer via oncology, radiotherapy and haematology wards in Munster.

“Many volunteers make these blankets to show support to those on the journey. Quite a few of the volunteers have been through this journey,” says Linda.

“So, when you receive a blanket, you can be assured that they are made with love for you.”

The love is palpable among the knitters.

“Relationships and friendships are formed here in our centre every Monday and Thursday from 11am to 1pm, and on Wednesdays from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. These sessions are open to all to join. There’s always a great atmosphere. Some knitters are here five to seven years. The camaraderie is great.”

Linda’s sister, Ann Goggin, crochets and she has made beautiful creations for people on a cancer journey.

“It is very sociable,” says Ann. “All the ladies love it. They range in age from 30 to 80. They all love the chat. We have coffee and biscuits and a chat. Maeve Barry made all the blankets for the meditation and yoga room. She did a great job.

“When we could come back after Covid, people were crying; they were so happy to be back. It was great to return to normality after so long.”

The Knit and Natter group mean business.

“They kept knitting and kept it up during Covid,” says Linda.

“I would collect the items, bring them here, sterilise them, and bag them up for delivery.”

There is a lovely vibe at the Cork Cancer Care Centre. And the coffee is good too!

There have been more than 25,000 blankets given to those on a journey with cancer. There are hundreds of knitters all over the country involved.

“There are various drop-off points in garages, for example, who deliver the blankets or toys to us. We also send them to Ronald McDonald House and St James’ Hospital. The blankets and toys are handed out by the nurses.”

The wig room where people going through cancer get fitted with wigs is the only place in Ireland that supplies free hats, scarves, hats and wigs.

“Often, people who have no more use for their wigs send them here,” says Linda.

Money is not an issue for people who want to come to the Cork Cancer Care Centre. “There is no worry about money,” says Linda.

“You just open the door and come in. Often, people who come through the door are quite broken and are suffering trauma. In two or three months coming here, they have a different outlook due to the free counselling and therapies available to them. They see it as a haven, a safe place to come.”

Where did the idea for this unique centre, now celebrating 10 years, come from?

“The idea for this centre was conceived by Ann Dowley Spillane,” says Linda.

“She was on the journey of cancer. It was following her diagnosis and whilst undergoing her treatment that she became acutely aware of the need to support each other with ideas, advice and most importantly, a shoulder to lean on.

“And so, in February, 2011, The Girls Club, now known as Cork Cancer Care Centre, which is based on a solid, positive approach and positive encouragement, was born!

“Throughout 2011, those touched by cancer, their families and friends met regularly at the Ambassador Hotel in Cork city, holding many workshops, events and fundraisers. The centre opened in 2012.

“Ann continued her brave battle with cancer,” says Linda.

“In July, 2017, our name changed from The Girls Club Cork to Cork Cancer Care Centre. Sadly, on October 13, 2017, Ann gained her angel wings. When her health deteriorated in 2016, I took on more responsibility in all of the day-to-day running of the centre, dealing with our counsellors and holistic therapies, grants, training, as well as organising fundraising events.”

Having been mentored by Ann, Linda succeeded her in the operations of the centre after Ann’s untimely death in October, 2017, and became the general manager.

The centre grew from strength to strength, where it was now offering a wide range of holistic therapies, support groups like the connect and flourish retreats with holistic therapies and art therapy. Linda was promoted to the position of CEO in 2021 by the directors of CCCC.

Who uses the centre at 26, St Paul’s Avenue, off Lavitts Quay, in Cork city?

“The centre is used by those touched by cancer, men and women and their families,” says Linda.

“This wonderful premises is our official meeting point and ‘home from home’ where we provide vital support to all those touched by cancer and their families. It is a safe haven for them. They can avail of free counselling as well as a range of complementary therapies such as Acupuncture, Reiki, Reflexology, access bars, Integrated Energy Therapy, Indian Head Massage, Lymphatic Drainage and a Drop-In Centre during the day.”

Where do The Blankets of Hope go?

“The Blankets of Hope are taken to the Oncology wards across Munster and nurses distribute them to cancer patients as well as to children’s units across the country. We also distribute them from our centre at 26, St Paul’s Avenue. All our blankets are delivered to people’s homes and nursing homes and posted to all requests we receive. As of the end of 2021, Blankets of Hope have distributed 27,000 blankets.”

Who are the Cancer warriors?

“The cancer warriors are a unique and innovative group,” says Linda.

“They are aged between about 25 and 55, and support each other through regular in-house meetings and via WhatsApp group.

Each warrior is at a different stage of their journey with cancer,” says Linda. “The group share their experiences with each other, which gives them a voice in a world where they often feel overwhelmed. Through these shared experiences, many fears are eased and questions answered, and more importantly, people don’t feel so alone.

Many life-long friendships have been formed by clients who have attended the centre,” says Linda.

“The Cancer Warrior group is supported by our professional psychotherapists/counsellors, our holistic therapists and our office staff. The Warriors also do activities outside of the centre, such as a walking group on a Wednesday at 11am.”

The Cancer Warriors do lots of things.

“They are offered two terms of pole fitness classes by Jenny in EM Fitness each year. They attend relaxation retreats offered by one of our volunteer therapists. Once a month, they meet for an hour of organic herbal teas while getting the opportunity to listen to therapists speak on different topics.”

The Centre is a beautiful space for people to enjoy and to interact with each other and with the professional volunteers who give their time free. There is a meditation room and two counselling rooms with soft furnishings and natural light.

“We offer bereavement counselling also and we support families in this calm space,” says Linda.

“When the parents come for art therapy, sometimes the children come too. The whole family is incorporated.”

The framework within the Cork Cancer Care Centre is strong.

“Our focus is on mental health and well-being, which is why we don’t limit the number of sessions to each client,” explains Linda.

“The same is true for the holistic therapies we offer. Each client that avails of the services in Cork Cancer Care Centre can be assured that you can keep visiting the centre for as long as you need our services.

“In our experience, both the person going through their journey and their families and carers are affected as a result of a cancer diagnosis.

“For this reason, we also welcome those family members and carers to use the services offered in our Centre.”

Going downstairs on the landing, there is a beautiful framed knitted Iris, the Flower of Hope, which is the Cork Care Centre’s logo created by Lucia O’Leary.

It is an apt creation for a very special place.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, CCCC is hosting a gala ball on October 1 at the Kinsale Hotel and Spa, with special guest Brian Kennedy. Tickets are €100 and the CCCC would like to invite Cork companies to take a table.

See www.corkcancercarecentre.ie or phone 021 4949090.

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