Thursday, 26 May 2022
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Thursday, 26 May 2022

Myeloma UK launches life-changing Peer to Peer support scheme

BLOOD cancer charity Myeloma UK has launched the Peer-to-Peer Programme this week, an empowering support scheme for and led by patients. 

As part of the new initiative, an inaugural cohort of 17 volunteers, known as Peer Buddies, will provide support to fellow patients and carers whose journey, experience or ongoing challenges with myeloma, or other related conditions, reflect their own. 

Each Peer Buddy will offer the patient or carer they have been paired up with up to six one-to-one phone or Zoom support sessions across up to six weeks. 

Myeloma UK Peer Programme Coordinator, Courtney Amesbury-Cooke, was instrumental in setting up the scheme and training the first cohort of Peers. She said:

“We’re delighted to launch Myeloma UK’s new Peer-to-Peer Programme, which will help patients and carers come together to support one another. Peer support taps into one of our innate human qualities – our inbuilt drive to help each other. In this respect, it is perhaps the simplest idea in the world.   

“It must not be forgotten that our Peers are themselves living with either the legacy or current reality of treatment, so we’ve built in a robust framework to keep them and the people they are supporting safe.” 

In a bid to broaden the scheme’s reach and to cater to those who may not feel comfortable expressing their concerns or fears over the phone or Zoom, a group of Peer Discussion Forum volunteers have also been trained to support and share their experiences with patients and carers via the Myeloma UK Discussion Forum. 

Research has shown the many benefits of peer support both for the peer and the person they are supporting. While research has generally focused on the psychosocial benefits, peer support has been shown to boost mental wellbeing during treatment, which in turn can improve clinical outcomes and help with recovery.

Another important facet of peer support is the focus on empowering the individual being supported. Research has demonstrated that being equipped with the knowledge of another person’s experience can lead to greater self-advocacy and more informed decision-making, which can have a positive impact on clinical outcomes.

Myeloma occurs in the bone marrow and currently affects over 24,000 people in the UK. Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, it is especially difficult to detect as symptoms, including back pain, easily broken bones, fatigue and recurring infection, are often put down to general ageing or minor conditions. 

More than half of patients face a wait of over five months to receive the right diagnosis and around a third are diagnosed through an emergency route. By that point, many of them are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms. 

Myeloma UK is the only organisation in the UK exclusively dedicated to myeloma and related conditions. 

Courtney added:

“Meeting and training our Peers has been both a real pleasure and a huge inspiration. Having experienced the profound challenges that being diagnosed with myeloma or other related conditions present, commonly our Peers choose to focus on the valuable life lessons that they have learned. Many have expressed huge gratitude for the support they received from the NHS, their family and friends, and a newfound appreciation for the small things that they had taken for granted. This positivity embodies hope – hope for the future, and for the ability to live a good, meaningful and fulfilling life whilst embracing all the ups and downs that an incurable cancer chronic illnesses can present.”

To find out more about the Myeloma UK Peer-to-Peer Programme and to request support from a Peer Buddy, please visit: www.myeloma.org.uk/peer. 

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