Shielding counsellor continues to support cancer patients during pandemic

Posted 9th October 2020

A counsellor has been continuing to support vulnerable cancer patients and their families through the pandemic, even though she has been shielding herself.

Linda Boyne, 71, from Allerton in Liverpool has worked as a counsellor for The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust’s haemato-oncology department for the past 18 years. Having previously been a nurse, Linda now provides emotional support to people with various forms of blood cancer and their families.

Being over 70, Linda was required to shield at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but has continued to offer support to patients and their families over the phone, or through the online support groups she has set up on Whatsapp. Knowing how much her patients benefitted from her face-to-face groups, Linda also moved them to Zoom, so the group could continue to support each other.

As well as emotional support, patients often come to Linda for practical help too. Many patients have been concerned about how to stay safe and the rules surrounding social distancing, socialising or wearing a mask – especially as the situation with COVID-19 has changed – and come to Linda for advice and clarification.

Since April, Linda has supported 45 families who have lost loved ones to cancer, some of whom also tested positive for COVID-19. She is also currently supporting a further 50 patients still being treated for blood cancers. Many of those with blood cancer are immuno-suppressed due to their treatment and are amongst the people most likely to become severely ill if they contract COVID-19.

Hazel, 55, from St Helen’s is being treated for leukaemia by The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. She says: “I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in March, and during this time I also got COVID-19.

“Dealing with both of these diseases has really been hard on me and my family. Linda has been a great support not just to me but also my family as well. Although she is working from home she never fails to contact me to, as she says, ‘check in’ with me.

“I get to talk through all my worries, anxieties and joys with her and she listens and gives suggestions of how to get through these troubled times.

“It has been a great relief to have Linda to talk to and be there for me, even at the end of the phone. I couldn't have got where I am today without her.”

Linda says: “The people I speak to are very vulnerable. And when the pandemic hit, they were incredibly scared. Contracting COVID-19 would be devastating for these patients and many of them were very concerned about what would happen to them if they went to hospital.

“It’s my job to support patients and their families. I give them a space to be angry, sad or to have a cry so they feel empowered to carry on and keep dealing with the challenges they face.”

“It’s also part of my job to keep up with the latest Government guidance and what that means for our patients as lots of them call me looking for clarification or advice on whether they can still go shopping or if they have to wear a mask. I try my best to support them in any way I can.”

Liz Furmedge, General Manager of haemato-oncology at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Linda has been a lifeline to patients and their families during the pandemic.

“We’re so grateful to her that she’s carried on supporting them during this very uncertain time. She is a friendly voice on the end of the phone, something many of our patients don’t have very often, so the work she does is incredibly valuable and recognised by all of us here.”