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Distressed callers answered at Christmas

Thursday 18 December, 2008

More than 2000 Victorians will be told they have cancer in December, over 800 will loose the battle and many will be told the good news that they are cancer free.

The Cancer Council Victoria today urged the community to be aware that a helpline would operate over the Christmas period for those with cancer or those recently diagnosed or affected by the disease.

Deputy Director, Cancer Information and Support Services, Dr Amanda Hordern, said people who were affected by cancer in the period leading up to Christmas often found it difficult to manage the emotional aspects of the disease and needed support.

"For many people it is a sad time and not a time to celebrate. They have either lost someone and miss them, are suffering from cancer and fear dying or are recently diagnosed and unsure of their future," Dr Hordern said.

"Feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness are common and Christmas traditions can be painful reminders of how different life has become.

"We speak to patients who are fearful that this may be their last Christmas. Others may be worried that their feelings and emotions may ruin the celebrations for others.

"Last year the Cancer Council Helpline, 13 11 20, received hundreds of distressed calls from people desperately upset about their cancer situation and our cancer nurses were there to listen, support them through the situation, and provide sound information and practical advice.

"The Helpline is the main entry point for accessing support services. Trained cancer and palliative care nurses staff the Helpline and can use a comprehensive database of research and details of statewide and local services for callers," she said.

Dr Hordern said family and friends finding it difficult to cope with Christmas without a loved one also called the helpline.

"When people are facing Christmas without a loved one, this can bring forward overwhelming feelings of loss and grief," she said.

"As experienced cancer nurses, we are here to listen to people's cancer experiences and share emotional and practical support to help people cope with the feelings of sadness and sorrow."

The Cancer Council Helpline, 13 11 20, will be available at the following times over Christmas and the New Year:

Wed. 24 Dec.: 8.30am - 3pm
Thu. 25 Dec.: Closed
Fri. 26 Dec.: Closed
Mon. 29 Dec.: 10am - 4pm
Tue. 30 Dec.: 10am - 4pm
Wed. 31 Dec.: 10am - 4pm
Thu, 1 Jan.: Closed
Fri. 2 Jan.: 10am - 4pm

Answering machine messages will be checked regularly throughout each weekday that the service is closed. To have your call returned, please leave your name and phone number.

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