"How are you?" - Counselling support for people living with cancer

"How are you?" - Counselling support for people living with cancer

“How are you?”

We all know this question can sometimes be a tricky one to answer. We also know it’s important to ask others how they are feeling, but don’t always take the time to ask ourselves how we are doing.  

Often, we brush off the question with a quick ‘Yes fine thanks, how’re you?’ but maybe it’s time to take a moment to really think about how you are feeling and whether you have the right emotional support in place for you.

When you have been affected by cancer, answering this question can sometimes feel even harder. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can impact your mental health and emotional wellbeing. In today’s Community news blog, we are talking about what support is available to help you explore the answer to that important question… ‘How are you?’ 

Exploring how you are feeling on the Community

One way that you can start to explore how you are feeling, is by talking to those who truly understand what you are going through. By posting in our discussion groups, you can take time to write down how you are feeling, no matter what you are facing, and share your thoughts with our members.  

“Sometimes it’s easier to write it down, to get it off your chest. Also, the keyboard isn’t emotionally involved, and it can’t see you crying – Community member, Breast cancer forum.

I think the mental impact of this disease is so so hard and I don’t know what I would do without the support in here. Community member, Breast cancer forum.

“This is a brilliant place to release all that pent-up emotional rubbish you’re dealing with.” Community member, ‘The Room’ 

“If it helps even a tiny bit to write it all down, that’s something…continue to put all your frustration and anger on here”Community member, Breast cancer forum.

Talking about how you are

As well as posting about how you are feeling here on the Community, sometimes the simple act of talking about how you are feeling with someone who is there to listen can really help. Here at Macmillan we have a Support Line that is open 7 days a week 8am-8pm. Our advisors will give you all the time and space you need to talk through how you are feeling.

Some of our members describe their experiences of calling our Support Line.

“I have more cried than spoken to the staff on the phone line here before now.” Community member, Family and friends forum

“I also called the Macmillan Support Line when I was really low. Even over the phone, they were brilliant, try it.” Community member, Breast cancer forum.

Even on days where you’re not sure how to even begin to answer the question ‘How are you?’, our advisors are here to listen and support you. Simply pick up the phone and call 0808 808 00 00, or click here to connect with an advisor via webchat.  

Counselling support

Sometimes exploring that all important question, ‘How are you?’ requires more structured support. Seeking counselling, or other talking therapies, can be an important step in understanding how you are feeling.

“I think you’re taking a positive and brave step in seeking counselling. As others have already said, the emotional and mental impact of this is beyond tough some days.” Community member, Breast cancer forum

There are different ways that you can access counselling and, as we’ve learned through the COVID19 pandemic, it doesn’t have to be sat in the same room face to face with someone.

You can access counselling in many ways:

  • Through the NHS via referral from your GP or Health Care Practitioner
  • Through a charity or local organisation
  • Paying privately

You may wish to speak with your GP to see what support is available in your local area.

Counselling support for people living with cancer

Macmillan is here to help. Through our partnership with BUPA, Macmillan are offering up to six sessions of free one-on-one counselling to people living with cancer which can be quick and easily accessed without any waiting lists.

For those who are eligible, specialist support is available within days and provided remotely i.e. over the phone or where required, online by video, at a time that suits you.

This free counselling is for people living with cancer. You can also find out more about the eligibility criteria, referral and Wellbeing Assessment process for our BUPA counselling service, by clicking here and reading more on our main website.

If you would like to explore whether our BUPA counselling service might be right for you, all you need to do is call our Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 and ask our teams about the service. Our Support Line is open 7 days a week 8am-8pm.

Some of our Community members have posted about their experience of using BUPA counselling through Macmillan below:

“I made the call last week to be referred for the BUPA counselling. I’ve been putting it off for a while, but I feel I really need someone to talk to outside of friends and family! Waiting for an assessment but hoping it won’t be long and it will help.” Community member, Cancer Chat forum

“I did this, 6 sessions via Macmillan/BUPA ending a few weeks ago. It was great to have a place to offload stuff and I have to say - the counsellor really showed up for me.” Community member, Breast cancer forum 

“I phoned up Macmillan, said I was interested in counselling, then they took a few details. Someone from Bupa phoned me a couple of days later and did an assessment - more in-depth questions about where I was. Lots of it was for safeguarding really. Then the counsellor… phoned me a day or two after that to arrange the first appointment. All pretty quick and easy.” Community member, Breast cancer forum

Whilst our BUPA counselling service is only available for those who have cancer at the moment, or have had cancer in the past, Macmillan is here to support anyone affected by cancer.

Other support for anyone affected by cancer

Getting the right support for your mental health can be just as vital as seeking support for your physical health, and the most important thing is to find the support that works best for you.

Whether you are a carer, close to someone who has been diagnosed, or have lost a loved one to cancer, our Community and Support Line teams are here for you and can help you explore how you are feeling.

Below are some resources to help anyone affected by cancer explore the answer to that seemingly simple question ‘How are you?’

How are you feeling? – The emotional effects of cancer

Are you feeling lonely?

“I’m fine”: how do you really cope as a carer?

Supporting yourself while supporting someone with incurable cancer (part 1)

Supporting yourself while supporting someone with incurable cancer (part 2)

However you are feeling today, you are not alone. Remember to keep talking about how you are and take the time you need to find the support that works best for you. Whether that’s posting on the Community, calling our Support line or accessing counselling, Macmillan is here for you.

  • Struggling with our new way of life,

  • I have managed to get some counselling through this scheme. I have had 3 sessions so far. Whilst its great to offload to a stranger who doesn't know your history. I find it draining and afterwards I am very emotional. Shame its only 6 sessions as I know I have a lot to offload which I sure did today. But thank you for providing this service. 

  • I am looking after my wife who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 3 years ago, she has had 2 major surgeries, chemotherapy, and now radiotherapy , I   am trying to be strong for her but am really struggling at the moment, I am still working and trying to do everything else as well, I don’t have many people that I can talk to about this without getting too emotional 

  • Hi Sal2474,

    It’s Megan here from Macmillan’s Online Community team. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling at the moment. I had a look at your profile to read more about why you’ve joined the Community and I’m saddened to hear of your husband’s diagnosis.

    This is understandably causing a lot of emotions for you so I’m glad you’re reaching out for some support. I can see that you’ve had a reply to your post which you can read by clicking here.

    I hope reading the support information in the above blog was helpful. I wondered if you’d considered getting in touch with the Macmillan Support Line teams? They can offer a listening ear and look at the additional support that is available to you and your husband.

    If you’d find it helpful to have a place to talk about how you are coping, please do call 0808 808 00 00 for free, use live webchat or send an email when the time is right for you. The Support Line teams are there to help every day from 8am to 8pm.

    I hope that as a member of the Community, it helps to show you that you're not alone and there is lots of support available for you. If there's anything that the Online Community team can do to help you use the site and access the support you are looking for, please don't hesitate to let us know.

    You can contact the Online Community team by sending an email to community@macmillan.org.uk or by sending a private message to the moderator account.

    Best wishes, 

    Macmillan's Online Community team

  • Hi Devon,

    It’s Megan here from Macmillan’s Online Community team. Thank you for sharing your feedback on your personal experience with the Macmillan and BUPA partnership. It’s good to hear that you found the sessions helpful and it helped to talk to someone.

    If you’re still in need of some additional support, please do give the Macmillan Support Line teams a call. They can offer a listening ear and look at what other support you can access.

    You’re always welcome to call freephone number 0808 808 00 00, use live webchat or send an email. The Macmillan Support Line is open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.

    We’re glad you’ve found the Online Community as we see everyday how helpful it can be for members to speak to others who have similar experiences. Please do continue to post in our Community groups and ask questions in our Ask an Expert section for as long as you need to.

    If there’s anything the Online Community team can do to support you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can email us at community@macmillan.org.uk or by sending a private message to the moderator account.

    Best wishes,

    Macmillan’s Online Community team