Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Coping with Life after Treatment; Health Reporter HELEN RAE Explains Why One University Academic Is Helping People Who Have Survived Cancer Live Their Life to the Full

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Coping with Life after Treatment; Health Reporter HELEN RAE Explains Why One University Academic Is Helping People Who Have Survived Cancer Live Their Life to the Full

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN RAE

A TYNESIDE university academic is on a mission to help cancer survivors.

According to Dr Karen Roberts, dealing with cancer is about much more than simply curing it.

Many people continue to live in the shadows of the disease long after they have finished treatment. Surviving cancer is about having to cope with the consequences of treatment and overcoming anxieties that go with this disease. To this end, Dr Roberts, who is a Macmillan Reader in the School of Health, Community and Education Studies at Northumbria University, together with Dr Sanjay Rao, a liaison psychiatrist with the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust, has developed an eight-week programme based around "mindfulness stress reduction'' for cancer survivors.

Dr Roberts said: "At the moment in this country we concentrate much of our effort on getting people through cancer treatment without too much regard for how they get their life back to normal.

"What we offer is a structured teaching programme that aims to bring together the principles of cognitive therapy and mindfulness meditation to tap into people's inner strength and develop resilience following cancer treatment. "This project builds upon my previous research which highlighted the common problem that cancer patients experience, of fear of recurrence of the disease and worries about the future.'' She added: "We are very good at saying what the problems are but there are very few interventions that we currently offer cancer survivors other than listening. Our programme is about equipping people with the life skills to help them adapt and get back to normal.'' Dr Roberts has also had to draw on her own teaching when her son, Oliver, was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was four years old.

She said: "I've had to pull on all my own learning to enable me to practise what I preach and take control of my own fears.

"People get very scared about cancer. We don't have a choice about the disease but we can choose how we respond to it and how much we allow it to interfere in our lives. That's a choice we do have and that's what the programme teaches. …

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