We meet the woman who’s harnessed her own grief to provide support for marginalised cancer patients and carers within their own community.

Change inspired by loss

In 2009, Marcella Turner lost her father to prostate cancer. 18 months later, just three days after being diagnosed, her mother passed away from bowel cancer.

In 2015, Marcella founded Can-Survive UK (CSUK), a charity dedicated to providing support and information to people living with or affected by cancer, in particular those marginalised or disadvantaged and disconnected from mainstream services.

“I put all my grief into starting the charity,” smiles softly spoken Marcella. “Caring for my dad showed me the lack of cancer awareness within certain communities and, with both my parents being of Caribbean descent, the absence of culturally sensitive support.”

A sense of belonging

CSUK delivers two support groups – WOW! (Women only Wednesdays) and MOT (Men only Thursdays) along with advocacy and information services in Hulme, Old Trafford, Cheetham Hill and, more recently, Harpurhey.   

“Everyone is welcome,” says Marcella, “it’s not about exclusion, it’s about inclusion. We focus on minority ethnic people, who tend not to engage with the mainstream cancer support agencies; who want to go somewhere close to home, where they feel they fit in and see people they can relate to culturally.”

Like a family

All too often, explains Marcella, service users feel uneasy talking to family or friends about certain things, so as not to worry or distress them, and vice versa.

“The groups are a safe and confidential space within which they can share openly and find comfort, friendship and support,” adds Marcella.

The feedback to date is overwhelmingly positive: “Service users say that it’s like a family and without it, they wouldn’t have had anywhere to go.”

They too can participate in activities, such as art therapy, creative writing, yoga, massages and talking therapy.

Shifting views & behaviours

Marcella is aware how men often struggle to speak openly (hence the MOT sessions), but is equally conscious of their refusal to seek help when symptoms first occur:

“95% of our male service users have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. My father’s was diagnosed when it was terminal. He was not aware of the symptoms. Many men only go to see their doctor after being encouraged to do so by a female… wife, daughter, sister.”

In conjunction with other agencies, the charity aims to challenge these engrained behaviours, raise awareness of risk factors and symptoms, and encourage screening programme attendance.

“In some cultures, for example, women are at times restricted from attending cervical screenings,” reveals Marcella. “We are working – sensitively and respectfully – within communities to shift these engrained views.”

Caring for carers

CSUK also offers support for carers. Marcella reflects on the three years she spent, along with other family members, caring for her beloved dad:

“At times, I felt like I was going mad! I had a full-time job and a young daughter. It was a stressful situation. If there had been a group where I could offload or just cry, I’d really have welcomed that.”

The charity also offer support to family members and carers providing end-of-life care to their loved ones:

“We do home visits and offer practical help and information to help alleviate stress that can be caused by having to communicate with and coordinate the various health agencies and professionals.”

A lasting legacy

Marcella’s long-term vision is to create support groups across the region (for “the voiceless, marginalised or deprived, be it culturally or socio-economically”).

In February of this year, Forever Manchester awarded CSUK Community Group of the Year. 

We tell her that her parents would be incredibly proud and how brave she is to use her loss to help others.

She smiles: “Winning the award is incredible. I hope my parents are proud. I want this to be their legacy… oh, but I’m not the brave one. The service users are the brave ones. I am humbled and honoured to support them.”

To find out more about the services, discuss sponsorship or becoming a patron, you can contact Marcella on 0161 455 0211/07496 089310 or email marcella@can-survive.org.uk

For further information visit www.can-survive.org.uk

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