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Questions about cancer? Talk to David

Last month we launched a new cancer information and support pod in Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr.

David Watkins has the job of making sure its running smoothly.

A highly trained Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Specialist, David explains why it is so very important for people with cancer to get the information and support they need.

Tell us about how you can help people with cancer?

I am a Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Specialist.

While I’m based in the new pod in Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr, I also cover hospital sites right across the Cwm Taf University Health Board area.

A typical day for me is all about helping people with cancer to get the information they need, hopefully at the time they need it the most.

That is what I do – I offer high quality, reliable information to help people with cancer to manage the wide variety of impacts that receiving a cancer diagnosis can have on a person’s life.

On a typical day I’ll arrive at the info pod and check that it is well stocked with the specialist cancer information people need.

Then I’ll check to see what information enquiries I’ve received and deal with these by either organising an appointment to visit the pod, or by referring the patient on to a more specialist support service like our local Macmillan welfare benefits team.

I receive up to 15 visits to the new pod every day.  What I’ve learned is that every enquiry, every person with cancer who walks into the new pod is different.

People with cancer, and their loved ones, all have widely different, complex and individual needs and circumstances.  I try to provide support that is tailored to them.

Whether it’s clinical, financial, practical or emotional – it is my job to help people to live their life, and to deal with the pressures caused by cancer, by helping them get the information and support they need.

What motivates you in your role with Macmillan?

At Macmillan we know that every two minutes someone will hear the words ‘you have cancer’.

Like so many other people, I have had to watch a number of my own family members having to come to terms with their own cancer diagnosis.

It has motivated me to want to make a difference.  I want to be there to let people know about the wider support that is available.  I want to provide some answers where possible.

My role really does place me in a privileged position.  For people with cancer, opening up and telling me their story and asking for help is not always an easy thing to do.

Nothing could motivate me more than the desire to repay their trust by signposting them to support, or by providing the information they need.

I really do look forward to coming to work on the pod every day.

Since starting with Macmillan, I really feel like part of a family.  The reception I have received from both staff and patients since the new pod opened has been fantastic.

What is your proudest Macmillan moment?

What I do with Macmillan is hugely personal.

Not long after I started an elderly gentleman came into the pod for a chat.

Unfortunately, he was a palliative patient and wasn’t very well.  I’m a family man, it was just before Christmas, and I wanted to make sure he was home to enjoy the holiday with his family as well.

I contacted the district nurse team, organised ongoing visits for him to ensure he was ok in the longer term, and I also helped him over to A&E to be checked over.

A month later his sister came back to outpatients for an appointment. She was so grateful.

The gentleman was kept in for a few days but spent Christmas at home with his family, and he even managed to make his traditional trip to the betting shop.

It made me feel extremely proud to know I’d made at least a small difference to that family’s Christmas.

In your own words, what would you like to say to the people reading your blog?

If you have any concerns or questions about cancer, please make sure you get in touch.

Whether it’s by popping into a local cancer support and information pod like the one in Prince Charles Hospital, or by calling our support line free on 0808 808 00 00, you’ll find Macmillan is always willing to help.

Talking to someone really can help you to find the answers to your questions, and to take just a little bit of the emotional and mental pressure off.


Macmillan Wales can only fund services like the new pod in Prince Charles Hospital thanks to the generosity of the public and their tireless fundraising efforts.
To get involved with fundraising for Macmillan call 0300 100 20 00 or e-mail fundraising@macmillan.org.uk.

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