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LJMC – before it all began

As we gathered to celebrate twenty years of supporting people affected by cancer, opendoor did a little digging into the distant past and how a derelict plot of land in the corner of Mount Vernon Hospital became the focus of national attention. We talked to Judy Young, one of the founders of the LJMC.

The founders of the LJMC were reunited at the 20th anniversary celebrations

 

 

 

Teresa Young, Jenny Wood, Judy Young, Jane Bradburn, Stephen Ramsden OBE & Prof Jane Maher were reunited at our recent 20th anniversary celebrations

 

 

 

 

Over the years, working as a therapy radiographer, Judy had developed an interest in the psychological aspects of working with cancer patients. Following qualification as a counsellor, Judy was invited by Dr Jane Maher to set up a counselling service in the Cancer Centre, probably the first service of its kind and a significant milestone in cancer care.

With no designated space in which to work, Judy found herself meeting with patients in whatever corner was available. "It really wasn't very satisfactory", she recalls. "Talking to patients on the wards didn't provide the confidential setting that was needed but, at the time, we just had to make do."

At the same time as Judy was developing the counselling service, Dr Maher lured social worker, Jane Bradburn, to the Cancer Centre. Jane looked at support groups in the local area and the increasing role they were playing in patients' cancer journeys. A key aspect of her work was to bring together some of the different strands including healthcare professionals and some of the other charities involved in cancer care. These included Macmillan Cancer Relief, CancerLink and Cancerbackup.

Jane produced a list of local support groups – the first piece of written patient information at MVCC and still one of the most frequently requested publications at the LJMC.

Meanwhile, further local research had identified some key areas of concern for patients. These included their wish for better access to information, better communications with the healthcare professionals treating them and better communications between healthcare professionals.

Evaluation of the counselling service also produced some surprising findings, Judy recalls. "Despite being referred for counselling, 80% of the people I saw really only wanted better information about their treatment."

Looking back on this period of time, it is easy to see how the 21st century services now in place at MVCC came into being. At the time, it was radical and ground-breaking and, despite the general murmurings in the world of oncology about what could be done to support patients, it took some brave characters to take the first important steps. Fortunately, they were all coming together in Northwood.

One of the bravest people to stick his head above the parapet was Stephen Ramsden, the Chief Executive at the time. He had already shown considerable commitment to supporting patients with the establishment of a complementary therapy committee at the hospital. When approached by Judy with her ideas for an information and support service for patients, he was quick to give the project his blessing and assurance that the funding would be forthcoming.

It was about this time that Lynda Jackson's family stepped forward with an offer to do some fundraising.

"Everything seemed to be falling into place," remembers Judy. "Potential barriers were coming down and it was a world full of 'yes'. We were convinced that our project had merit and it was heartening that others agreed."

Serendipity intervened once more as a representative of Macmillan Cancer Relief gave a positive indication that Macmillan would back the project with funding for the construction of a purpose-designed building on the Mount Vernon Hospital site.

The foundations for the building were dug in January 1993. Judy remembers the next few months as being hectic as she juggled her counselling work with overseeing the building works and ideas for the new service. "Talk about a wing and a prayer", she exclaims. "We didn't have fixed plans – we just got on and did it! There was so much goodwill and a desire to make the project succeed."

In June 1993, the LJMC opened its doors. There was considerable curiosity and overwhelming support. Judy's background as a radiographer stood her in good stead; she already had many friends in the Cancer Centre and professional respect. Another radiographer, Jenny Wood, had joined the team to set up the information service and, together with a team of volunteers, the fledgling service took flight.

The groundswell of interest in the field of patient support was burgeoning and a great deal of time was spent in the first few years showing visitors round the centre and talking about how things had been achieved.

"So much of our success had depended on the right people being in the right place at the right time," said Judy. "There wasn't a magic formula and there were times when we really did worry where the money would come from. However, everyone's willingness to turn their hands to whatever needed to be done was incredible. I see that same ethos today. At the heart of the LJMC are people – that's what it's all about."

 

 

 

Last updated: November 20, 2013

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2013 issue of the LJMC newsletter, Open Door.