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Bridget Haren of Clare Sláinte An Chláir who is providing online sessions to local cancer patients from her home in Miltown Malbay. Photograph by John Kelly

cancer support centre zooms in to help patients

ANXIETY among cancer patients has understandably increased during the Covid-19 restrictions, according to a local counsellor.

Bridget Haren has revealed that cancer patients are very fearful of picking up the virus if they get any non-Covid-19 illness but still require hospitalisation.

Another fear experienced by cancer patients is that their regular check-up or health appointment may be cancelled due to the restrictions.

For the last seven years, Ms Haren has provided face-to-face counselling for cancer patients at the .
the Sláinte An Chláir Centre in Kilnamona.

Following the closure of the centre due to the national restrictions, she is now providing remote meditation and mindfulness classes using Zoom from her own home near Miltown Malbay for up to 20 patients for an hour on Tuesday and Thursdays.

The first 30 minutes of the meditation class on Thursdays is devoted to discussion and medication questions for oncology nurse, Anne Murphy from Tulla, who also takes part in the Zoom class.

Physiotherapist, Aideen Farrell also provides an exercise and bone strengthening class on a Wednesday via Zoom.

Marie Kelly provides counselling for cancer patients in the East Clare area. Patients who are familiar with information technology show elderly patients how to use application such as Zoom.

Ms Haren regularly posts clips about breath exercises and meditation on the group’s Whatsapp and also sends members of the group clips they can listen to on their own.

“Patients missed the support and personal contact provided by calling into the centre and being with other people.

“Providing classes on Zoom has been very successful. I provide techniques around lowering stress and meditation.

“I am surprised how well the group is working on Zoom and how this is now so much part of their weekly schedule. All the group members really look forward to it.

“People will say when I started I felt really stressed but now I am feeling really relaxed,” she said.

The Miltown Malbay trained trauma therapist also sees other private clients on Zoom.

As someone who is also involved in other spiritual groups, she has found there is an increase in the number of people who want to learn meditation and help themselves from within over the past few weeks.

“What I am noticing from clients who have to stay and work from home there is a real sense of coming home to oneself. People are now seeing what they used to do before all the distractions like shopping, rushing around and drinking.

“People really want to change their lifestyle now. People are being more reflective on how they live their lives and they are making real changes” she said.

Geraldine Hansbury, who had treatment for stomach cancer, said the support and assistance provided by the centre was more vital than ever during the Covid-19 restrictions.

The Newmarket[-on-Fergus resident received chemotherapy for three years and still attends regular medical scans.

She gets vitamin injections every few weeks to keep her healthy as she can’t digest them properly like other people.

“I don’t know where I would be today without the centre. It is like being part of a big family, we are a family orientated centre.

“I was the worst case in terms of not knowing how to relax but I learned. I live my life by meditation now.

“It is phenomenal. When you practice meditation it really helps with your breathing.
Meditation is something to look forward to and is very relaxing. It helps to keep us in touch with the group in the centre.

“It helps keep people occupied during the day. I find the services very useful and they help to keep me on track,” she said.

She helps out as a volunteer in various ways including supporting fundraising ventures as she likes to give something back to the centre.

She recalled sometimes patients can get emotional in group sessions because they really miss calling into the centre, particularly the elderly people, who really looked forward to meeting their large circle of friends and colleague in Kilnamona.

Lisdoonvarna resident, Sophie Delaney became stressed from travelling up and down to appointments in St James’ Hospital and worrying about her husband, Shane, (48) an archaeologist, who had to spend a lot of time in hospital before and after a bone marrow transplant to deal with a rare form of cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDF).

At one stage when Ms Delaney was up in a room in St James’ her heart rate in her fitbit increased to 130 and she didn’t feel well.

After dropping into the centre in Kilnamona last February she benefited from Ms Haren’s face-to-face counselling and really enjoys the virtual meditation, despite her initial scepticism that it may not work.

“I find the mediation is a lifeline. When I go up to a room for the meditation it is like I have left the house and it really works.

“I find counselling over the phone once a week works really well. I am now handling everything so much better. I was exhausted from going up and down to Dublin and every consultation was an important consultation.

“As a wife, you have your family commitments and you also need to be a support to your husband.

There is a great welcome and happy atmosphere at the centre. I was included straight away from the first day I attended. It is such a positive place and is the opposite of the hospital.

“It is just like a home away from home with plenty of laughing and cups of tea. Getting that support has helped to improve all aspects of my life,” she explained.

For anyone who would like to find out more information about Clare Sláinte an Chláir can contact 087 6912396.

 

Dan Danaher

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