Gabhan’s ‘whole new life’ after Leukaemia diagnosis

editorial image

A south Derry man has praised the support he received from clinical specialist nurses after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

Gabhán McFalone, a former Magherafelt District councillor, was speaking after the launch of the NI Cancer Patient Experience Survey Report (CPES).

The report revealed a 10% increase in the number of patients who received the name of a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) to support them through their treatment. 82% of patients in Northern Ireland were given the name of a CNS, compared to 72% in 2015.

Mr McFalone, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2017, completed the survey along with 3,500 others, to share his personal experience, and now volunteers with Macmillan Cancer Support.

He said: “Life slowed down when I was diagnosed with leukaemia and I was faced with a whole new schedule and routine, in fact a whole new life - I had no point of reference for it. It affected everything, from my health to my work and my family.

“I did have a CNS who was there for me at very critical times and it’s reassuring that they feature so positively in the survey. The whole process can be so confusing, for you and your family and friends – so much information, more booklets than I could deal with at the time.

“As a patient, all you want to know is what’s relevant to you. If I could change one part of my experience it would be to ensure that you have a conversation early on about what you need and what’s important to you. We are patients, but we are people too.”

Heather Monteverde, from Macmillan NI, says that the results demonstrate how CPES can make a valuable case for change in the delivery of cancer services.

“In 2015, people were unambiguous in their call for improved access to Clinical Nurse Specialists who are an invaluable point of contact for patients, their families and carers,” she said.

“Their voice was heard – the Health and Social Care Board committed to expand the CNS workforce with an investment of £11.5 m in 60 new posts, £7m of which was provided by Macmillan Cancer Support.

“We know from further analysis of the survey that people who were given the name of a CNS had statistically higher scores on another 47 questions. The positive impact of on-going investment in the CNS workforce is clear from the results and an indication of the importance of listening to patient experience.”