What now?!

First, our Trustees and Committee met to discuss the importance of supporting our members throughout lockdown, most of whom had to shield.  Trustees were consciously aware that we didn’t have a digital platform in place, and this encouraged us to embrace the digital world to enable us to support all our members.  We signed up for a Zoom account – a new way of life … technology has definitely moved forward in all avenues of life and OBBG was not going to be left behind!

Ms PG Roy, Consultant Surgeon and founder Trustee held online Q&A sessions for members.  These sessions were well received and very informative.  The sessions helped alleviate concerns and provided information around services offered at the hospital if ‘help’ was required.

Bruce Greenhalgh, our Mindfulness guru, agreed to run more regular weekly sessions over Zoom. With more time spent at home (and for some of our members that meant being alone), this was a great opportunity to start practicing Mindfulness.  Breathing techniques, reflection and building resilience have all been part of Bruce’s sessions.  Many members have enjoyed the catch-up chat following the sessions and have formed supportive friendships which have proven crucial when normal social contact is so reduced.  Members have commented how these sessions have helped combat their stressors over lockdown and how they will integrate their learning in everyday life going forward.

Cathy Kenyon, Breast Care Sister held monthly Q&A sessions. Cathy has also been available for telephone support for members and their families to provide guidance and information as required.  Cathy has been excellent at providing added support to members who require further understanding around their care and treatment post diagnosis.

Our monthly Saturday meeting sessions moved over to Zoom.  We have had a variety of speakers over the lockdowns including Consultant Psychologist, Dr Catherine Dendy; Consultant Gynaecologist, Dr Sarah Ledingham; Consultant Oncologist, Dr Mark Tuthill; and Nutritionist, Helen Money, to name but a few.  For the members who were not able to attend the sessions live, we decided to start recording them (those who don’t wish to be on camera are always welcome to switch off their camera/sound).  During the following week we post the password protected ‘ReLive’ link on our website for our members to catch up at a time that is more convenient for them.  This offers a greater deal of flexibility to our members.

Our post op recovery bags have been well received by all patients having surgery.  Over the pandemic all Breast Cancer patients across Oxfordshire were having their surgery at the Manor Hospital, but this will all revert back to normal shortly.  We are hoping to offer the post op surgery bags to all Breast Cancer patients having their surgery over NHS and private hospital sites in Oxford soon.

We have received some great blogs and diary entries from members during lockdown 1 – 3, noting their experiences of diagnosis and treatment over this time, and we have uploaded a selection to our dedicated Blog page on our website. It is always empowering to read members experiences and it also helps inform us of where our support might be required and what further information members are looking for that isn’t available through the normal sources/services.

MARCH 2021 NEWS HEADLINES: LOCKDOWN EASING! STAYCATIONS! 50% ADULT POPULATION VACCINATED! CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM?  OBBG is hoping to resume monthly face to face group meetings when it’s safe to do so, whilst retaining a virtual programme, but we will record sessions where possible and appropriate, and post them to ReLive so they’re available to those members who are unable to attend the sessions.

From a personal point of view the pandemic has changed almost every aspect of my life!  I now work entirely from home and for long periods during the lockdowns; whilst having the challenge of home school to balance alongside OBBG and ‘normal’ daily life.  I am amazed at how the world has evolved and adapted to every challenge that has been thrown at us over the last year and OBBG has strived to evolve too.

My online skill set has certainly been added to. It is my belief that when things are at their worst; people are at their best. I hope that the lessons learned and the new opportunities that have been discovered can continue to benefit all our members in the future; but hopefully through a more manageable ‘new normal’.