I figured it was about time I wrote about Shine London and Small c Coffee & Cocktails and why I’ve been attending.
A while ago I was contacted about a new charity ‘Shine Cancer Support‘ – A Network for Younger Adults Affected by Cancer. The organisation was created by people who found themselves diagnosed with a cancer in their 20s, 30s and 40s and in many cases with little information or support for their age group. Or diagnosed with a ‘rare’ cancer, there isn’t a specific support group to attend and certainly not for your age group. Issues such as fertility, dating, childcare or returning to work are critical to a young adult but often overlooked with cancers predominantly diagnosed in the older person. In addition, many support groups take place during the day and this timing in itself lends itself to attendees being older or no longer working.
Many people will tell of how peer support has been incredibly valuable in their ‘journey’ and that a shared experience or a tip or trick can be crucially important at a vulnerable time.
Shine offer a number of activities in Bournemouth, Dorset. They have had walks on the beach, balls, drinks evenings and new members lunches. They have arranged pamper days and Christmas and Halloween parties.
A summer holiday took place this year and it is hoped to be an annual event. Camping in Swanage with members and their families. This weekend away allowed family members to also network with others and share their own experiences.
In London, there are regular Coffee & Cocktail evenings. The venue is changed regularly and meet up every 6-8 weeks. It’s a good mixed group of men and women, age range is literally 20-40(ish!), different and varied diagnoses, some still in treatment, some between treatments and some counting the years of survivorship.
What I love about it is that we’re in a pub, bar or private club. We drink wine, beer, juice, coffee or bubbles! We chat as a group but also as small groups. We talk about living. We talk about dying. We talk about cancer. We talk about where we’ve recently eaten or holidayed. We talk about aspirations. We share experiences. We talk about inspirations. We talk about each other. We talk about our families and friends. For the most part we talk about all the ‘normal’ stuff that you talk about with your friends in the pub… and probably talk more and faster as the wine/beer is consumed.
What we don’t do is sit around in a circle going over our medical history, latest operation or graphic side affects. But if they’re mentioned, it’s OK too.
Tonight’s meeting was made all the more amusing when early on we were joined by a gentleman who was probably in his 40s and clearly had had too much of something… perhaps booze but I suspect it may have been combined with other substances! He bounced over to our table informing us that he was meant to be at a wedding reception. The bride shouldn’t be marrying that &^%(*. Then he described their whole relationship. A while was spent on his asking if what he was wearing was suitable or should he have his scarf on or off, should the jacket be on or off – each ‘idea’ being modelled by his strutting across the bar and back to our tables. We then heard all about his life. His wife (or ex-wife). His lover. And so much more. It was hysterical and I have to say that as a group we were all crying with laughter and fuelling his drunken rants! After quite some time we managed to persuade him to head off to the wedding reception… I would so love to have been a fly on the wall when he turned up!
We were joined by two new group members. Twin men in their 20s. One with cancer, the other supporting his twin brother. They were fun and we had a laugh. We also heard his/their story. They also shared moments together when something was said and the other realised that they’d not heard it before. I believe the group environment allowed them to talk about issues that they’d previously skirted around too. But mostly, I hope, they felt supported. I do hope they’ll be back to the next evening.
There are many support groups. There are many different support environments. One is not necessarily the right one for all. I’m excited by Shine and what it has the ability to do – support people diagnosed with cancer in their 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m also very pleased to count these new people in my group of friends. Just sometimes I need people who understand… and sometimes I just need people to have a glass of bubbles with!
French 75 cocktail… combining two faves… gin and champagne!