Annual Report 2016 - 17

Annabel's Angels is pleased to share its Annual Report for the period 01/04/2016 - 31/03/2017. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported the charity over the last twelve months. Our supporters help us in many different ways, including:

  • conversations with friends and colleagues to raise our awareness;
  • sharing their skills and experiences to help review the way we operate;
  • take on a wide range of fundraising initiatives to raise money for our public grants scheme.

As always, we are incredibly grateful, humbled and thankful for these wonderful offers of support. 

Key headlines from our Annual Report are as follows:

  • Annabel’s Angels increased its annual fundraising income by 12.5% from £17,940 in 2015 to £20,139 in 2016;
  • Grant programme expenditure increased from £8402 in 2015 to £13821 in 2016;
  • The number of families supported has increased from 22 at April 2016 to 56 at the end of March 2017 (this has since risen to 76 at the time of writing);
  • The charity supported 34 individuals living with 23 separate cancer types over the last twelve months.

You can access the full report by clicking here. We do hope you enjoy reading it. 

You will also find a copy of our externally verified accounts here.  

Please feel free to share any comments with the team by emailing simon@annabelsangels.co.uk 

 

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Grant programme feedback

We are always looking at how we can improve our reach and efficiency. Currently, we are in the process of designing and carrying out a stakeholder survey to fully understand how we're seen and valued by others. This will include consultation with a range of stakeholders from grant recipients, parents/carers, businesses and donors, and also discussions with our health and social care colleagues. Until then, we felt it timely to share a few bits of feedback recently received from some of our grant recipients;

"The grant allowed us to keep the car on the road to enable us to get to appointments. It also allowed us to have a break in Lincolnshire."

"You ask if there is anything more you can do. Without your help Alan would not have cared if he lived or died. I don't think you can improve as when we needed help you gave us that help."

"The grant helped me and my son immensely at a time of need and stress/worry. Annabel's Angels came to us, listened to us and helped." 

 

 

Apprentice & Graduate Association fundraising success

We were overjoyed to be chosen as one of two local charities to be supported by the Apprentice & Graduate Association in Derby. Earlier this year the Association held a fundraising ball to benefit both ourselves and our friends at the Tiny Tim Trust. Additional fundraising by the apprentices and graduates followed during the remainder of the year. Last week we were invited to Rolls-Royce to receive a cheque for the Association's fundraising efforts. We received £2914.96 from the team and we've just been informed that an additional £500 is also on its way. We're truly humbled. A huge thank you to all involved. This amount will make a tangible difference to approximately 8 local families living with cancer (*grant applications average out at approximately £400 per family. We don't hand over any money - all items/services are paid for directly by the charity)

Headspace & Denny Art Launch Charity CD

Our very own trustee Denise, under her artist name Denny Art has had the honour of creating the artwork for a beautiful charity CD which has been created over the course of 2016 by musician Headspace.

Headspace himself had the following to say…

I have been lucky enough to have this last year off and during this time I have been able to noodle around and record my own tunes (finally). Here they are. A portion of every CD sold will be donated to Annabel's Angels, the best charity I know.....simply amazing.

CD cover art by Annabel's Angels trustee Denise a.k.a. Denny Art

CD cover art by Annabel's Angels trustee Denise a.k.a. Denny Art

Each CD cost £4 and for every one sold a £1 donation was made to Annabel's Angels.

During the sale of the CD Denise raised an awesome £157 for Annabel's Angels! We'd like to thank all who bought a CD - look out for more exciting news from Dennyart on her Facebook page

Summer Newsletter - Annabel's Angels

Seasonal Newsletter - Annabel's Angels

We hope you’ve had an excellent Summer. We felt that we’d like to share what we’ve been up to over the Summer and also give you a sneaky insight into what is to come in the Autumn and Winter.

Since June 2016 we've helped 10 families living with cancer. We've collected testimonials that can be found on our Annabel's Angels Facebook page.  We're proud of the work we've done! 

We’d love to hear what you did with your Summer, be it sitting in the garden enjoying the outdoors, or trekking up the mountains of Bulgaria! Anything that shows you being your own extraordinary!


- Annabel's Angels 


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The incomparable Simon Hancox strikes again, successfully finishing the Blithfield Triathlon in July 2016.  Fitness champion at Annabel’s Angels, Simon is always doing something adventurous. We wouldn’t be surprised if he messaged us from the side of a cliff face in Peru. Simon, along with numerous others, is taking part in the Derby 10 Mile this November. Surely 10 miles is just a warm-up for Simon. We’re excited to see what he gets up to next!

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We enjoyed bragging about our wonderful partnership with the Derby 10 Mile! We want you to start bragging about taking part in such a fantastic, family friendly event! The @Derby 10 Mile takes place Sunday 6th November 2016, 10am, The Ipro Stadium - Derby County Football Club.

That's PLENTY of time to dust off your old trainers and hit the road running, jogging, walking or even crawling (we don't recommend this one). We'd love for you to be a part of it. It doesn't matter how long it takes, as long as you get it done. Finishing last is better than not starting. Join us!

Chairperson, Simon Hancox doesn’t seem to have an ‘off-switch’. To wind down, Simon seems to find solace and relaxation in trekking up mountains and hillsides in Bulgaria. Each to their own. Simon successfully trekked in the Bulgarian Rila mountains and finished off his adventure with an ascent of Mount Musala, with it’s peak being at 2971 metres.  Of course the obligatory reward was a cold Bulgarian beer.

Chairperson, Simon Hancox doesn’t seem to have an ‘off-switch’. To wind down, Simon seems to find solace and relaxation in trekking up mountains and hillsides in Bulgaria. Each to their own. Simon successfully trekked in the Bulgarian Rila mountains and finished off his adventure with an ascent of Mount Musala, with it’s peak being at 2971 metres.  Of course the obligatory reward was a cold Bulgarian beer.


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Annabel’s Angels was gifted with some excellent news in July. We hate to brag, Ashgates Accountants chose us as their Charity of the Year 2016/2017. Steve Martin, Ashgates Partner states: "We’re delighted to have found Annabel’s Angels and we have nominated them as our Charity of the Year. At Ashgates we are going to do all we can throughout the year to raise funds for and awareness of the Charity. One example will see Ashgates putting a team together for the Derby 10 mile run in November.” 


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Social Media Marketing Guru, Will Kennard, jetted off to the Olympics in August. We only found this out after he posted a beautiful, authentic picture of rows of houses on a hillside in Rio. We have a feeling there was a little bit of reluctance to come back to reality. 

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Trustee, Elizabeth Johnson recently graduated from The University of Nottingham with a degree in Communication and Media. Besides from almost dying of over exposure in the 25 degree heat, she agreed that it was a lovely day shared with her family...with the obligatory glass of prosecco before walking across the stage.

 

Our trustees dressed in their finest garments to attend the Rolls Royce Graduate and Apprenticeship Charity Ball in June. Here's an overview courtesy of our super Secretary, Tessa:

"Annabel’s Angels was nominated as one of the local charities along with Tiny Tim at this year’s Graduate and Apprenticeship charity ball event held at Queen's Hall in Derby.

The theme for the event was Arabian Nights and to fit in with the theme there were belly dancers, Middle Eastern food, Middle Eastern decoration and music. The event host entertained all the guests during the auction and raffle as well as during the presentations. The guests were all well entertained by a band, disco and very skilful magic acts.

Representatives from Tiny Tim and Annabel’s Angels attended with each giving a presentation on the work carried out by the charities.

Everyone was impressed by the event and we were very honoured and humbled to be chosen as one of the two local charities. The event was extremely well organised by the graduates and apprentices and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Fundraising from the night will be split between the two charities - we'll confirm totals shortly. A huge thank you to all involved.”We heard that Matt Hancox graced those attending with his supposedly expert dancing skills. We just wish we had the evidence to prove it!

Goodbye to our friend and co-founder, Shelley Mason.

Annabel’s Angels and Shelley Mason have a bit of history; our Chair Simon Hancox takes us back to early 2013…

The passing of Annabel Hancox on 28 December 2012 opened up many new friendships and connections. I decided to make contact with several of Annabel’s online friends who were all going through their own Cancer journey. Dorothee, Denise, Yvonne, Nicola, Ali and Shelley were names new to me, but, in time, they would become regular contacts, new friends bought together in the most difficult of circumstances.

Chatter online became chatter over the phone. Conversation swung to and from different topics, as conversation often does, and it wasn’t too long before the subject of support for people living with Cancer came up. We all shared our own experiences of hospital support, peer support and we shared ideas about how we could encourage others living with Cancer to ‘challenge’ their condition and to live life as fully as possible. As a result, several sponsored Race 4 Life events came and went all under the moniker of local Annabel’s Angels running groups running throughout the country. The groups performed amazingly well, securing over £30,000 in sponsorship for Cancer Research UK, mainly by people living with Cancer walking and running to prove to themselves and others that they could do it.

Conversations moved on to the idea of what next. Setting something up to support local families was a topic that seemed to stay in the air. Shelley, Ali, Dorothee and I carried out our research to see what existed and what was missing from Annabel’s own city of Derby. The idea of peer support and a support fund to help Cancer families deal to reduce some of the ‘daily life pressures’ started to grow.

Shelley helped to grow an idea into an actual thing; an incredibly useful thing. Shelley offered her skills, ideas and insights to others while also living with Secondary Breast Cancer. Shelley used her skills as a trainer to bring a team of people together, she used her professionalism and patience to help wade through the necessaries associated with the Charity Commission. She used her warmth and wit to challenge people in a way only she could do.

Shelley continued to support others by writing a blog detailing her every day life experiences while also detailing her own Cancer journey. Shelley’s warm and witty writing style bought new fans and new friends. Stories resonated with many, particularly those with an experience of living with a life threatening illness.

Shelley passed away peacefully on 30 September 2016 surrounded by her family.

Annabel’s Angels would not exist today if it wasn’t for Shelley Mason.
I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Shelley Mason.

Shelley offered me support at the darkest time of my life. Shelley listened to me and she offered ideas about how I could support myself well and how I could raise my two young boys while dealing with this unexpected life chapter.

My thoughts and the thoughts of all Annabel’s Angels Trustees go out to Shelley’s family. Shelley was a wonderful human being; warm and witty with a wicked sense of humour. 

Shine on, Shelley x

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Ashgates choose Annabel's Angels as their Charity of the Year 2016/17

Ashgates Accountants and Business Advisors have chosen Annabel's Angels to be their Charity of the Year for the financial year 2016/17. The Ashgates staff team will take on several fundraising challenges during the course of the year with all funds going to the Charity to support local families living with Cancer. The team will also raise awareness of the Charity across its networks. Steve Martin, partner at Ashgates, said:

“We’re delighted to have found Annabel’s Angels and we have nominated them as our Charity of the Year. At Ashgates we are going to do all we can throughout the year to raise funds for and awareness of the Charity. One example will see Ashgates putting a team together for the Derby 10 mile run on 6 November. Annabel’s Angels is the Official Charity Partner of the Derby 10.”

 

Simon Hancox, Chair of Annabel's Angels said:

“Annabel’s Angels supports local people living with Cancer in and around Derby by listening to and responding to their individual support needs. We work closely with the Royal Derby Hospital, Macmillan Cancer Support and other support organisations to encourage families to submit a grant application to ourselves based on their individual needs. The aim is simple: to improve the quality of life for the individual and for the family. For example, in the past we have funded childcare while a parent attends treatment, we have sourced and supplied white goods/essential items and services to reduce the pressure on the family. We have also funded travel costs to enable those on low income to attend essential treatment and recovery.

We’re overjoyed at being the official Charity of the Year with Ashgates for 2016/17. This partnership gives us a tremendous opportunity to promote our work by working with a well respected and highly successful local business to reach and support more local families living with Cancer.”

Annabel's Angels Official Charity For Derby 10 Mile

Derby’s newest race, the Western Power 10Mile, is set to take place this Autumn starting and finishing at the home of the Rams, the iPro Stadium. 

We at Annabel's Angels  are absolutely delighted to announce that we have been selected as the official race charity partner!

Simon Hancox, Chair of Annabel’s Angels said: 

“We’re overjoyed at being the official race charity partner for the Derby 10M. This gives us a tremendous opportunity to promote our work to thousands of people and to reach more local families living with Cancer.”

“We’ve had many of our supporters raise funds for the Charity whilst completing running challenges over the past two years. The initial sign up, the training and that special feeling on race day is something that many people seem to enjoy – me included! A few of our Trustees also enjoy the odd run so I’m hopeful we’ll see a few Annabel’s Angels t-shirts amongst the Derby 10M runners on the big day. We’re hopeful that we can raise thousands of pounds to help more local people living with Cancer.”

BBC Radio Derby’s Craig Ramage, Patron of Annabel’s Angels, will be placing the runners under starter’s orders on race day. Craig said:

“I feel very privileged and honoured to be starting this year’s Derby 10M. I am always pleased to support any Derby based event where people set out to raise funds for their chosen charities. I, of course, wish everyone a great day and send my very best wishes to all, including my friends at Annabel’s Angels who are running to raise money for this very special charity.”

Richard Kay is the Race Director, who was delighted to have Annabel's Angels as the official charity:

“One of our big aims as organisers of the Derby 10M is to support the local area.  When it came to choosing the Official Race Charity, Annabel’s Angels fitted the profile perfectly.  We’re encouraging as many runners as possible to join Craig’s colleagues, BBC Radio Derby’s Ed Dawes and Owen Bradley, to run in aid of this charity and raise funds to support local people living with Cancer.“ 

If you are interested in running the Western Power 10Mile please register your interest on the official website to qualify for a preferential entry fee.

Entries are expected to open late June once the race date is confirmed.

If you would like to run the Derby 10M and raise money for Annabel’s Angels at the same time please email derby10@annabelsangels.co.uk

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Annabel's Angels teams up with epm: technology

Annabel's Angels is pleased to announce a new partnership with engineering specialists epm: technology. Here's an overview of how things came about:

With Christmas quickly approaching, epm: technology employee Mark Gould reached out to Annabel’s Angels; a Derby-based, registered, charitable trust raising funds to support local cancer patients and their families. Mark has also recently completed a FireWalk for the charity.

To raise money for Annabel's Angels, the epm: technology team will begin raising funds throughout December, culminating in a Christmas Fun Day for staff and academy on Christmas Eve at the Technology Centre in Derby. Mark thinks this is just the start: “We hope this is just the start of things to come between ourselves and Annabel’s Angels. We, as a company, have the opportunity and willingness to help this amazing charity and, with the support of our brilliant workforce, we can definitely help make a difference.”

Graham Mullholland, CEO of epm: technology continues, “The team approached me and asked if we had any plans to support any charities in the future. I asked the team to draw up plans and see who we could support locally. A number of the team have been touched by this cruel disease so it made sense to rally the team up and do a few activities to raise some much needed funds for Annabel’s Angels as we build up to Christmas. I am very proud and pleased to see team epm supporting Annabel’s Angels.”

Simon Hancox, Chair of Annabel’s Angels, feels this is an exciting opportunity to raise funds and to raise awareness of some of the issues associated with living with cancer:

“Annabel’s Angels supports local people living with cancer in and around Derby by listening to and responding to their individual support needs. We work closely with the Royal Derby hospital, Macmillan Cancer Support and other support organisations to encourage families to submit a grant application to ourselves based on their individual needs. The aim is simple: to improve the quality of life for the individual and for the family. In the past we have funded childcare while a parent attends treatment and we have sourced and supplied white goods/essential items and services to reduce pressure on the family. We have also funded travel costs to enable those on low income to attend essential treatment and recovery.”

Simon went on:

“For many, Christmas is a time of reflection and a time for giving. Many of us will remember those who are no longer here and many will feel compelled to do something positive to help others over this festive period. I’m touched, humbled and very pleased that the epm: technology team will be fundraising to support Annabel’s Angels during this time. My fellow trustees and I are very grateful for the opportunity to work with epm: technology. We feel their values and principles match those of our own. We love the fact that both organisations are reputable, professional and are Derby-based. I’m hopeful that this is the start of a fruitful relationship”

Visit epm: technology for more info about the company 

Firewalk Success For Annabel's Angels

They walked the walk last week, a walk that, for many, ended in blisters.

Derby held its very own Challenge Cancer Week. This was a week dedicated to raising awareness about Cancer, it's myths, issues and success stories.

There were many events held, including the most daring and eventful, the Firewalk which was managed by daredevils, James and Lottie from Firewalkers UK. Not only was this an adventurous stunt for the thirty three participants, raising a staggering £2,500+ for Annabel's Angels, it was also a chance to extend an open hand to the public of Derby, to those wanting to either show support or to try something a bit daring.

The event was organised by Lisa Higginbottom, Simon Jones and our very own Simon Hancox, who, himself, took the stride of pride down the burning coals, stating afterwards that he found the experience “memorable”.

There were thirty three participants involved, including our patron BBC Radio Derby's Craig Ramage, and former Mayor of Derby, Lisa Higginbottom who seemed completely unphased by the idea of walking over hot coals, having done it “several times before”, 

So much passion went into organising the event, and we’re thankful for your help and support throughout this past week.

Annabel’s Angels has seen its support and engagement increase significantly over the past few months, and this is mainly down to our involvement with Challenge Cancer. We say a huge thank you to all our supporters for continuing to champion what we do. You're helping us to support local patients, carers and families living with cancer.

A little bit of extraordinary goes a long way, the Firewalk thirty are walking proof and we say thank you for being your own extraordinary.

Thank you
Annabel’s Angels.

Challenge Cancer ribbon, showing our support for families patients and carers living with cancer. 

Challenge Cancer ribbon, showing our support for families patients and carers living with cancer. 

BBC Radio Derby's Craig Ramage signs for Annabel's Angels

Annabel's Angels is delighted to announce that BBC Radio Derby football summariser and former professional footballer Craig Ramage has taken up the position of Patron for the charity with immediate effect.

“We are overjoyed to have Craig sign up and support the charity” said Simon Hancox, the Founder & Chairperson of Annabel’s Angels. “Craig is a Derby guy, people know him, they listen to him and they respect him. We’re really excited to be working with him to help promote our work, to raise more funds and to reach and support more local families living with Cancer.”

 Quote from Craig:

"I personally have been very fortunate and blessed in many ways. I have however, like many people, been touched by both critical and terminal illness. This is something which has left me with not only an understanding, but a desire to support an organisation such as Annabel’s Angels and the fantastic work it does to support Derby people as they deal with and confront difficult and potentially
life changing situations."

 

This signing ties in perfectly with the Challenge Cancer campaign being run by Annabel’s Angels, Macmillan Cancer Support, Derby Hospital and Yes to Life. Derby’s week-long event programme is aimed at raising awareness about living well with and without Cancer. There’ll be plenty of information sharing, several topical debates and workshops, and lots of opportunity to dispel some of the myths surrounding Cancer and Cancer treatments. Listen out for survivorship stories shared in the media, and take up a challenge or two if you’re able - including a fifty-strong firewalk fundraiser finale on Derby’s Historic Market Place to end the week (Saturday 17 October at 3pm).

Annabel’s Angels is asking people what they can do to Challenge Cancer. Craig has shown us what he can do. He has also agreed to take his shoes and socks off and join the Firewalk Fifty in the Derby Firewalk. Why not join him? For more information about the Challenge Cancer campaign and the Derby Firewalk click here

2014 - 2015 Annual review

It's time to sit back and relax for a moment now that I've just submitted our Charity Commission Annual Return. Reflecting on 2014 - 2015 has been a humbling experience for me. We've done so much and met so many people during this last year. On behalf of our Trustees I'd like to say a huge thank you to all the sponsored event fundraisers, bucket shakers, runners, swimmers, knitters, tea makers, cyclists, bag packers etc and contributors. 

Thanks also to all the businesses out there who have supported us during the last year - from donating time and space for events to assisting us with design time and materials for our promotional items.

Here's a quick rundown of what's been happening:

·         Partnerships have been developed with other National and Local charities to promote our aim – Macmillan Cancer Support, Mummy’s Star, Derby Breast Cancer Support Group and The Laura Centre.

·         Ben Nevis sponsored walk (group activity).

·         Auction events held on regular basis at various sites.

·         Promotion of individual’s fundraising events via own website.

·         Charity race night organised by Alvo Boys FC.

·         Charity of the year status and ongoing support with The Bubble Inn, Stenson, Derbyshire. Several fundraising opportunities have taken place at the Bubble. This will continue into 2015/2016.

·         Bucket collections in supermarkets and businesses around Derby.

·         Wristband sales in businesses around Derby have increased.

·         Charity sweets partnership developed across Derby with ‘Reach Out’ – 20% of money taken for sweets sold are donated to Annabel’s Angels.

·         Election of a Macmillan/Derby Royal Hospital employed individual to enhance grant application promotion via local hospital.

·         We supported 40 women living with breast cancer by means of funding bespoke clothing – in partnership with Derby Breast Cancer Support Group.

·         Enhancement of website and social media promotion via volunteer support from individuals with expertise in this area.

·         Granted designated charity of year status by Status Social, a Midlands based social media specialist. This led to bespoke training provided at no cost, along with an increase in our social media output and engagement along with networking/promotional opportunities.

·         Sale of merchandise via partnerships with local businesses.

·         Increased presence in health and social care establishments in Derby – static displays at Macmillan Information Centre, Combined Day Unit, Breast Clinic and Outpatients Clinic.

·         Promotional literature about the charity is offered to newly diagnosed cancer patients and families. 

·         BBC Radio Derby and The Derby Telegraph have published several Annabel's Angels news stories. 

·         Our volunteer reach continues to grow. Volunteers play a huge part in our work. Put simply, the charity would not be able to function were it not for the significant contribution made by the volunteer team of Trustees and the ever-increasing team of ad-hoc event and fundraising volunteers. Based on national minimum wage, we have calculated a financial contribution of £4382 made by volunteers. However, we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg; it's too simplistic, way too simplistic to measure input and impact from volunteers in this way.

So many people have all helped us raise our game this past year.  You've helped to connect us into important conversations with others, you have helped tirelessly to promote our name and you have boosted our fundraising income significantly. With your support we have seen our income from donations increase by 84% from the previous year. We are grateful, we are humbled.

Our grant applications have shown a steady increase in 2014 - 2015 from the previous year. We expect this to increase as we forge new partnerships across the city. We continue to process grant applications quickly and responsibly, with an aim of making a decision within ten days from the date of receipt. 

We move forward with the intention of keeping the charity 100% volunteer-led. We recognise that this could, and probably will, impact on our personal time (all Trustees have commitments etc) but we felt strongly, very strongly in fact that almost all of the fundraising donations we receive (91%) is given to the individuals and the families who need it most in the form of grant funded services and items to improve quality of life. 

The Trustees and I have all been affected by cancer at some point, either as someone living with cancer, a carer or a close friend of someone affected by cancer. We have a good idea of how life can change when a diagnosis is given. That's why we do what we do, that's why we will continue to do what we do. 

Thank you all for your support so far. Let’s build on this for 2015 and beyond

Simon x
Chair

Elizabeth, Simon and Siobhan

Elizabeth, Simon and Siobhan



The Perks of Peer Support

I’m sure you’ve all heard the adverts, seen the slogans, 'No one should face cancer alone.' I wholeheartedly agree, but many do. Cancer can powerfully isolate you from others, be it the fear the name instills or fear of the unknown, some friends can disappear sooner than you can finish the sentence. Add to this the unpleasant side effects of treatment and no energy and suddenly if you’ve chosen to live in a more remote area people aren’t popping by or you can’t manage to visit friends without feeling wiped out. Let’s not forget the financial impact of not working whilst receiving treatment. While this isn’t everyone’s experience, it is the reality faced by many.

Being diagnosed with cancer can be like a thunderbolt and you are left reeling wondering where to turn for help, advice or support. For me, I wanted to know someone else felt like I did, I couldn’t be the only one surely? Peer support is a wonderful way to feel supported and have a sense of belonging. We joke that we became members of a club that you really didn’t want to join.

 

So what is peer support? The term is used readily in many sectors, especially in cancer services or chronic illnesses. I thought it would be useful to share the definition, just to make sure we are on the right track.

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful.’

 

There are so many ways that people affected by cancer can benefit from peer support. In my own personal experience I dabbled with a few methods, perhaps I’m just greedy or like variety.  

The following is a list, and apologies if I've overlooked any of the methods of peer support I found available. 

Online Community Forums - Large cancer charities like Macmillan have a Community Forum with separate groups for different cancers, different stages, and different roles. There is a place for everyone to fit into and if there isn’t you can set up your own group and relatively quickly you will attract others. I found Macmillan within hours of being diagnosed, I think perhaps the large brand name reassured me that I would find others in my position. I wanted someone to say what I was feeling was normal.

I’ve found lots of online forums work well, they are moderated and there are rules to ensure no offensive remarks, images or private details are shared. Perhaps the beauty of these groups are you can be as anonymous as you want, real names are banned, so you quickly become your alias, pet names are common here and witty cancer slaying names. This is a great start when you trying to find your way around a diagnosis, a place to voice fears that you don’t want to say out loud to anyone you know, or in person. You give and take as much as you see fit, some people never actively reply to threads, but read and gain from the posts others make. There is always someone or something you identify with.

Specific cancer charities have their own forums and communities, lots of my peers used Breast Cancer Care alongside Macmillan – I couldn’t manage to juggle to different groups at this time of my life, but for many that really helped and they made great lasting friendships. There is a huge range of large and small charities offering online forums as peer support.

Closed Facebook Groups - usually connected to a public page, these behind the scene groups function by invite only. They are a fantastic way to share and give tips to others, and find answers to those nagging thoughts at 3am. Less anonymous than the stricter forums, you can share images, your real name, location etc. I consider these a step on from the other forums, when perhaps you’ve had a bit of time to come to terms with your diagnosis, or family member’s diagnosis. People in Facebook groups can also become friends outside of the group with some groups arranging meet ups.  Some of the main benefits of closed groups or forums, they are 24 hours a day, 365 days of a year.  Admins keep a watchful eye, but I’ve actually found closed Facebook groups friendlier than larger forums, which can on occasion have high tensions and opposing beliefs, perhaps as people can hide their real identity they can be a little nastier. Additionally some people sadly aren’t who they say there are sometimes.

In our early days before the development of Annabel’s Angels we developed a closed Facebook group, after moving across from Macmillan. 

Skype - some charities offer peer support via Skype – Isn’t it wonderful? You can have conversations with people anywhere in the world and maybe never meet them in person. Skype connects us and is great way to break isolation if you live in remote areas, provided you have great internet access. Obviously if you are introduced to a someone via a charity they have gone through a screening and training process and most likely been through treatment for cancer themselves, so have their experience to share with you.

Google Hangouts - the step up from Skype, an online get together for small groups. Google and Skype can be used on mobiles too, so no excuse for feeling lonely in a hospital bed anymore, you can hang out with your buddies online and boost your endorphins.

Email one to one support - some cancer charities will match you with a buddy and you communicate by email.  Whilst some younger people will roll their eyes at this, with What's App, Snapchat and other new apps an email is often seen as slow. But isn’t restricted to certain characters like Twitter, so a modern version of pen pals is a great idea for some.

Twitter - of course, and we now can now send unlimited text in DM (direct messages). It’s a great way to connect to others that are going through something similar to you. In my personal experience, and maybe this is because I’m a little older than 30, ahem, I’ve met Twitter pals post treatment and mostly as we are all either professionally linked, campaigning or cancer activists one way or another. There’s some thriving connections tweeting away and then meeting in person.

Blogs - of course. Who doesn’t find blogging cathartic, and you have the option to keep yours private or public. I had two, my public Macmillan blog and a private Word Press account, using it as an online diary of how I felt. When first diagnosed I found other blogs written by young women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They inspired me and gave me hope as they honestly shared fears, photos, advice, fashion tips and brow advice. People follow and interact with one another via blogging, again there is someone or something for everyone.

 

And now …step away from the computer and join the real world…..

 

Peer Support Groups - depending on where you live these can vary greatly. There are groups for specific cancers again, age groups, stages of disease, newly diagnosed, post treatment, secondary groups, carers only groups, young carers groups……it’s endless.  The format varies too, some successful groups have structure and healthy snacks. Some less formal with your statutory tea and biscuits and rolling responsive agenda.

Some led by patients, others by professionals. You can pick and choose, some groups will make you feel very welcome and you naturally bond. Others are a little tricky, my worst experience was where people played what I fondly refer to as Cancer Top Trumps, my illness is worse than yours. Why?

Groups have lots of benefits, physically being with others can be great and lead to making some fantastic friends, and I can vouch for this too. They can also be a bit stagnant sometimes when dominant group members are reluctant to share and talk over new members. It happens, we all have varying needs after all.   

I remember not long after being diagnosed wanting to see people that were 'back to normal' after treatment and it seemed they didn’t exist, they were an urban myth. Of course the truth was they were back at work and not able or wanting to attend groups that reminded them of their treatment. I can vouch for this too, returning to work with my skin still cooking from radiotherapy I wanted to put my experience behind me.

Action Groups - Walking, Dragon Boat Racing, Singing or Dancing etc - what a great way to meet others in a similar position to you then doing something you enjoy. There are some brilliant examples of this Wave Walkers, is London’s first Dragon Boat Team for people affected by cancer.  Choirs are springing up. There are dances and walking groups too. The way they are advertised greatly varies, sometimes a random online search won’t find them. I found Wave Walkers as they’d distributed fliers in oncology waiting rooms. Alternatively Meet Up is a good place to look for groups.

Cancer Buddies - when people who have had a lived experience, certain charities offer opportunities for people to volunteer as buddies to support newly diagnosed or perhaps isolated people. This has plenty of benefits too, and perhaps suits people not fond of groups but seeking to meet someone in public for a coffee. Some smaller charities offer this as a befriending role, they have restrictions that volunteers have to have had a significant period since they were undergoing treatment or their family members were so that they are not emotionally raw and unable to fulfill the role.

When we formed Annabel's Angels, our aim was to encourage friendships throughout cancer, as we had become friends ourselves. As a natural extrovert, I could talk the hind legs of a donkey and never have a problem initiating conversations with others, but for so many it’s very difficult starting conversations with other people even if you are desperate to do so. Peer support in all its wonderful forms can be your starting point as with a click of a button you can be connected. I hope that anyone reading this feels inspired to go straight to the search bar and look for local or national options that can support you, or the person you care for. There really is no reason to be alone.

Ali Gordon 

June 2015

 

The C Word

The C Word was shown on TV for the first time this week. For some this was was too tricky to watch, too upsetting and too close to home. For many  though, this was an opportunity to see how a life living with cancer really is.

Our very own Alison Gordon read the book and watched the TV programme. Ali has also experienced cancer first hand.  The C Word story shares several similarities with the coming together of the complete strangers of Annabel's Angels, or The class of 2012, as described so well by Ali below. Please take a few moments to read on: 



"I found Lisa Lynch’s book The C Word back when I was nearing the end of my active treatment for breast cancer. Her honesty, and outspokenness appealed to me. I loved her humour, and saw a lot of my own crazy coping strategies in her descriptions.

She became my idol, a champion, someone that had taken on ‘the b*llshit’ and beaten it. It gave me increased confidence that I could do the same. Someone that wasn't just surviving, someone who was living.

I was devastated to hear that she’d had a recurrence and died, it wobbled me to the core. I learnt of this in the first year after my own treatment ended, the time when everything seems so uncertain, perhaps the only certain thing is the recurrence of thoughts and fears that it will return. At the time when those closest to you feel relieved the worst is over and let out a sigh of relief. After the initial adrenaline surge, you emerge with wobbly legs, mistrusting your body, becoming hyper sensitive to every twinge, or pain and losing the ability to switch off worry and anxiety. However this all lies beneath the surface, as on the outside you (attempt) to appear composed, as your hair begins to grow, and the rounded steroid cheeks deflate and you aim to shake the Tamoxifen pounds.  Life beyond diagnosis can be difficult.

The C Word was brilliantly brought to life this weekend, and I imagine many people wept into their tissues as the story unfolded, and many sadly avoided watching as had been personally affected by a similar experience. I hope that many women felt prompted to check their breasts as a result, and sincerely hope that they continue to do so. The story highlights the importance of support, of friendships and humour. The touching scene of the three friends meeting up in Brighton for the day, although sadly never really happened, plays on the importance of sharing with others and how peer support is essential.

There are many complexities to being a younger woman with breast cancer, apart from the obvious fact we’re below the age for routine screening. There’s being the token youngster in a sea of older faces at oncology departments, and given the ‘head tilted’ look that you are too young to be here.  We all know cancer can affect you at any age, but why do we never see peers at the hospital when you are waiting? At times like this you need to meet people in a similar situation to yourself to really feel the support, to fit in. Groups like the Younger Breast Cancer Network are a blessing and have grown from strength to strength over the past 3 years. No subject is taboo, thankfully! 

Just like Lisa, I found comfort in blogging, posting my first blog just 2 days after my diagnosis. I reached out to Macmillan’s Community Forum for support, not really knowing what else to do, if I'm honest. I needed to find someone else who felt the same, a safe place to say what I really felt. There had to be someone else out there with a boob that was trying to kill them too wasn't there ? The anger, fears, frustration all the things you daren't say out loud could be unloaded. I typed away under my alias, I could be real, let all those emotions spill out over the keyboard.

I never really expected to find friends, but I did, and these friends were there throughout the night when family members lay sleeping beside you unaware of the terrors in your mind. Tales of side effects, sharing coping skills, exchanging (poor) humour, and reassurance. We filled the online forums and threads with our messages of support for one another. More details were swapped and shared in private messages. A support network of anonymous women around the world swapping stories and tips, part of the ‘club’ no one wants to join.  As our friendships evolved, our confidence did too and a group of us, the Class of 2012, swapped our exchanges from Macmillan to Facebook, where we became real, sharing images, videos, and positive posts of encouragement to one another. We weren't hiding behind our nicknames any more, we’d let other people into our real lives.

Annabel’s Angels was born out of this friendship; when Annabel died, we, the Mac mates, The Class of 2012, were devastated and transferred our support to Simon and Annabel’s family and to each other.  Our friendship became tighter, and we became closer. It’s been 3 years since the Class of 2012 formed, we've lost some friends along the way, some have developed secondary cancers and are undergoing treatment and some are busying themselves with life beyond diagnosis. I am incredibly proud of my Mac mates, they are the most incredible, tenacious, remarkable women ever and the gift of friendship we extended to each other has seen us through challenging times. My mother whilst undergoing treatment for Leukaemia always said, ‘It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.’ I wholeheartedly agree, and I’d add, life is nothing without friends."  

 

http://alrighttit.blogspot.co.uk/

The Laura Centre - supporting bereaved adults & children in Derby

A few of our Trustees visited The Laura Centre recently. Corin and Simon met with Elaine, the Chairperson of the Derby centre, and Jemma, the Community Fundraiser at their centre on Vernon Street.  

Opened by the bereavement charity COPE in 1991, The Laura Centre offers specialist bereavement counselling to parents whose child has died and to children or young people who have been bereaved of a parent or significant person.

The head office is based in Leicester. Elaine explained that all enquiries and referrals are handled there. The Laura Centre also has local centres operating in Derby and Coventry. All offer wide-ranging individual and group support as well as a variety of alternative therapies.

Two qualified counsellors split themselves across three days during the week in Derby - two days are spent counselling adults, and one day counselling children. On average, they support four customers per day. 

The centre has only opened up its doors to children since March 2015. There is already a waiting list as, unfortunately, bereavement counselling is very much in demand.

The centre would like to open up its doors more often, but a lack of funds prevents this from happening. It costs £150,000 per year to run the centre as it currently is, and Jemma, the community fundraiser, is often rushed off her feet identifying and securing new leads to bring more funds in. 

One way to promote the centre and bring funds in is to hold participative events in the community. Jemma is currently helping to organise the annual Colour Blast Dash run taking place at Darley Park in Derby on Sunday 10 May.  A 2.5k run and 5k run will be taking place during the morning. All runners will start wearing a white t-shirt.  During the run they will be peppered with brightly coloured paint by the Laura Centre team and members of the public. It's a great opportunity to do something a bit fun, a bit different and, just a little bit naughty.  And to raise some funds for the local centre.

Annabel's Angels will be entering a team for the Derby event. We will be raising funds to support both the Laura Centre and our own charity grant programme. Feel free to say hello on the day, pelt us with paint or, better still, sign up and join us. 

For more information about The Laura Centre click here http://www.thelauracentrederby.org.uk/

To sign up for the Colour Blast Dash click here http://www.colourblastdash.org/Locations.html



 

 


Sharing, connecting, running.

A note from Simon, Chair of Annabel's Angels

I've seen many people come and go since December 2012. I've seen friendly faces become even more friendlier. I've seen faces become distant, perhaps unsure about what to say or what to do. I've seen my own face in there too, equally unsure at times about what to do, say, interact, feel etc. 

I've been very vocal about how lucky I feel I've been with the support I've received along the way. Family and friends helped with listening ears, broad shoulders and culinary skills. And dog walks too.

A key part of my well-being has been my involvement in a widower's forum set up by my good friend Benjamin Brooks-Dutton. Ben and I got in touch with each other in January 2013. I wanted to talk to other widowers to see if what I was thinking, feeling and fearing was normal.  And so, the doors were opened for other widowers to join a small online group, a safe space whereby us chaps could talk openly and share our innermost thoughts and feelings about this new and unexpected stage of our lives. 

It's now March 2015 and the group has grown considerably. Some are parents, some aren't. Some live overseas, some are young, some not so young. It's an eclectic group. Several guys have gone on to give their time and energy in helping to improve the lives of others. This has been in the form of fund-raising, joining charity committees, sharing their skills in a practical way, sharing their experiences in print and online, and some, like me, have gone on to set up a charity where gaps might exist. 

Last weekend I ran the Lincoln 10k with three of those chaps - Paul Verrico, Andy King and Pete Wallroth.

Lincoln 10k 2015 AA vest.jpg

 

Paul set up Teamverrico following the loss of his wife Anna.  Team Verrico concentrates on Cancer Support, Research and Treatment Options and Education about all aspects of Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

Andy supports the St Barnabas Hospice Trust which provides specialist palliative and end of life care so that everyone can access and receive the support they need to live well and ease the process of dying. He does this with his children Alex and Harry through their charity Screw Cancer

Pete is the founder and CEO of Mummy's StarIt is the only UK charity with the aim of supporting pregnancy through cancer and beyond. The charity offers support to other women and families finding themselves in this situation by providing a single point for medical advice and guidance, a small grants programme to provide financial relief; and campaigning and advocacy. 

 

Running the Lincoln 10k with these chaps was such a privilege for me. I felt a real resonance with them, a strong connection and unity. And, of course, a 'never give up' outlook on life. It’s safe to say we’ve become very good friends.

Experiencing a tragic life event has shown me the value of creating those all important life opportunities for me and my boys, to push ourselves physically and mentally, and to seize the day. Things don't, and never will, always go according to plan of course, but that's the beauty of life, we just never know what will happen. Do we?

Seize the day, connect with those around you, forge new friendships. Live and love life.

Simon Hancox

23 March 2015

* I'd also like to say a huge thank you to those who sponsored me for this event, those who shared Facebook posts, those who tweeted and those who cheered us all on during the race itself. Thank you all so very much x

 

 

 

 

Evaluating, listening and supporting.

A key aim of ours is to reach more patients and families in Derby directly affected by cancer. We want to reach them and help them before their condition gets too tricky. We want to reach them before it's too late.

We can only do this by continually spreading the word about who we are and what we do.  We keep the paperwork down to an absolute minimum, and we give a grant decision as soon as we possibly can. We work closely with Macmillan Cancer Support, Treetops Hospice and the Royal Derby Hospital teams to ensure our name reaches far and wide. We're very grateful to these and more for pushing us out there, for suggesting Annabel's Angels to those who might need us. 


Being a very young charity, the need to capture the thoughts and opinions about our work from those we help is so important. This feedback helps us to see where we go wrong, and where we do right. And, of course, how we can improve. This feedback also helps others understand more about us. It gives the public an idea as to what items/services they can request from us. It paints a picture of family life and helps us all to fully understand the impact of our support. 

We're always so very grateful for the feedback we receive from those we support. With this in mind we wanted to take the opportunity of sharing some words from a family we supported in November 2014.

How easy/difficult was it to make contact with Annabel’s Angels? 1 to 5 (1 being very difficult, 5 being very easy).

5 Very Easy

How easy/difficult was it to complete the Grant application form? 1 to 5 (1 being very difficult, 5 being very easy).

5 Very Easy

Did we respond to your Grant request quickly enough?

Yes very quickly

Has the Grant made a difference to your life? If so, how? If not, why not?

Yes, it took huge pressure off at Christmas

How can we improve our Grants Programme?

I don’t think you can improve. It is a fantastic charity.

Would you recommend Annabel’s Angels to others? If so, why? If not, why not?

Yes, nice simple process to help people that need it!


Please help us to reach more people. Please talk about us, share our social media posts, suggest us to those who might benefit. We can't ever take the cancer away unfortunately, but we can take away the burden of living with cancer, if only for a little while. 

To apply for a grant please see the Grants Programme section on the website.