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No room at new rooms

The restructure of rooms at the Gisborne East Coast Cancer Society means the organisation is no longer able to accommodate large groups for meetings.

A support group for women with cancer say they feel “dumped” after being told they can no longer use the rooms on Gisborne Hospital grounds.

Every fortnight for the past six years, a group of around 15 women have met at the rooms for two hours, to have a cup of tea and a chat.

A new member said she could not talk to her family about her recent diagnosis because they got upset.

“This group is the best medicine,” she said.

What hurt the group the most was they were advised not to come back by letter, “No cup of tea, no face to face”.

The big reason they are all asking, is why?

“We’ve never been told,” said member Lorraine McLaughlin.

Cancer Society CEO Debra Elgar was in Gisborne last week and agreed it had not been handled well.

“There was significant miscommunication, and it was a learning curve for all of us.

“Generally if there need to be changes made we do it face to face, meet and talk, so that everyone knows the whys and wherefores, but it seems that didn’t happen in this instance.

“We got that really wrong, and that is not how the Cancer Society operates.”

Ms Elgar said the Cancer Society rooms were remodelled last month. The new layout meant the large meeting room, where the women used to meet, was now used as office space.

The new meeting room could only fit eight people.

Ms Elgar said the need for services provided by the Cancer Society continued to grow, and the rooms leased to them by the District Health Board on the hospital grounds were under huge pressure.

“We are rapidly outgrowing the facility. We will have to think carefully about how to accommodate growing numbers of staff, volunteers, services, and support groups into the future.”

Suggestions for other places the group could meet included McDonald’s, a church hall or the HB Williams Memorial Library.

But the women loved the ample parking at the Cancer Society rooms, it was a safe place to meet, plus had great access for members in wheelchairs or walkers.

“Being based at the rooms helped with our sense of belonging to a society that support people through cancer. Surely the Cancer Society are there to support women with cancer, not isolate them,” said member Deidre McGuinness.

Another member said she could not picture herself at McDonalds having a good cry and telling everyone she only had three hairs left under her arm. The group love the honesty and laughs they share.

As well as laughter, there are tears too, all accepted in the companionship these women offer each other, they said.

“This group is good because it’s for people going through, and others who have been through.

“No matter where you are on the journey, it gives us hope,” said another member.

“Sometimes your husband doesn’t understand, he’s there to support you but when I came here I thought, “This is what I needed”.

Another member was given two months to live after her cancer diagnosis; that was three years ago.

“It’s this group, it’s kept me going. When you’ve got support you can ease the anxiety, and anxiety is a killer.”

“Going for a good old chat for two hours to think about anything other than cancer is sometimes all we need,” said Lorraine McLaughlin.

TOLD TO MEET ELSEWHERE: A women’s support group for people who have cancer, or have been through it, have been told they are no longer able to meet at the Gisborne East Coast Cancer Society rooms on the Gisborne Hospital grounds. Accommodating a big group is no longer possible after the rooms were remodelled. Some of the members are, from left, Lorraine McLaughlin, Jocelyn Hankey, Carol Sharp, June Nicholson, Aileen Mudford, Ailsa Watts, Adrienne Douglas, Deirdre McGuinness, Suzie Wall, Kathy Williams. Picture by Liam Clayton