Proposed plans for a new state-of-the-art Big C centre on Dereham Road in Norwich. Picture: Big C
A brand new centre to support those in Norfolk battling cancer is set to open in Norwich – if £500,000 can be raised for the appeal.
Norfolk and Waveney’s cancer charity the Big C has launched the bid to build a state-of-the-art centre in Dereham Road, Norwich.
The new build would not replace the charity’s site at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, but aims to offers care and support closer to where people live, away from the hospital’s medical surroundings.
It will include an area of gentle exercise classes, a large workshop kitchen for food and nutrition demonstrations, and a light and calm central seating area.
Plus private consultation rooms and a sensory wellbeing garden.
It is hoped the centre will help people like Stan Tungate, 77, who lives in Sprowston with his wife Stephanie and was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2018.
Mr Tungate, a retired construction business owners, decided not to have chemotherapy and attends the Big C’s monthly men’s group.
The father-of-three, grandfather-of-six, and great grandfather-of-10, was shocked when he discovered he had terminal neuroendocrine cancer.
Mr and Mrs Tungate were out for Sunday lunch when he first realised something was wrong.
He was feeling hot and cold in the restaurant and felt a bit of pain. He thought it was indigestion so took some fresh January air.
The couple left early and he was still in pain at home when they decided to call an ambulance. Although all the tests and checks were normal, just before the hospital staff were about to send Stan home, the doctor suggested a quick ultrasound scan, which is when they found the lumps.
After a CT scan he was taken straight to the ward for an emergency operation for a bowel blockage. During the operation they noticed a tumour on his pancreas.
Many scans later and during an operation to remove the head of his pancreas at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, they also discovered six tumours on his liver, the cancer had spread to three different places across his organs.
However, the doctors could not operate, there were simply too many tumours.
Mr Tungate decided to forgo chemotherapy and instead he is having injections at the NNUH every four weeks.
Mr and Mrs Tungate had known about the Big C for years, and so one day, after a hospital appointment the couple wandered into our Big C Centre at the NNUH.
One day after an appointment Mr Tungate visited the Big C centre.
He said: “Everything was fantastic. It was really nice how they invited us in to sit down. We’ve been absolutely thrilled with the Big C.
“I go to a jolly good meeting there, the Big C’s men’s group, every first Tuesday of the month. There was just four of us at first but the group has really grown now and we’ve developed a good relationship. We just sit down and discuss our diagnosis, what they have been through, and it’s just an excuse for a good old natter really. It does me the world of good.”
He added: “I was very emotional at first when I told my story to the others in the group but they were there with tissues and everything and I got through that alright. Now I’ve told my story and how I feel about it, I’ve got it off my chest and I can listen to others. Being in the group has really helped me, it’s given me confidence.”
Both Mr Tungate and his wife have felt supported by just popping into Big C for a cup of tea and a chat in between appointments and they have also enjoyed the complimentary massages available to each of them.
Mr Tungate has been granted access to palliative care at Priscilla Bacon Lodge should his cancer worsen over the next two years.
However, he has a positive mind-set and plans to make as much of his life as possible. He said: “As with everything in my life so far, I’m not going to give up. I try to eek things out as much as possible and I hope to do the same with my health. I joke to my wife and say, I’m greedy, and we have a bit of a laugh about that but I think it’s good to keep going and hope for the best.
“It helps if you’ve got good support and I do. We have lots of friends and neighbours who we spend time with and we have been members of a gardening club for 30 years. We enjoy that. I’m so grateful of the Big C men’s group and I have a wonderful wife who cares for me, which helps enormously, and a very special and large family who are dear to me. I’m very fortunate on that side of things.”
Recently Mr Tungate had an appointment with the oncologist to see whether the injections have been helping to contain and improve his cancer symptoms.
The good news was his tumours had not grown in the last six months, which he and his family were thrilled about.
He said: “I was over the moon, I can’t even tell you. My littlest granddaughter gave me the biggest squeeze ever when she found out. I mean, I’ll still have to live with cancer but the injections and medication I’m taking are helping to prolong my life which is just wonderful.”
Dr Chris Bushby, chief executive at Big C said: “The importance of this new Big C cancer support centre cannot be overstated and we are passionate about delivering this project for Norwich and Norfolk.”
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Big C was also a massive support the Kathryn Dugdale-Evans, a performance manager for Serco at the NNUH.
The 40-year-old, who lives in Norwich, celebrated being five years free of bowel cancer last month and ran the Brighton Marathon in April for Big C.
Mrs Dugdale-Evans was just 34 when she was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2013.
She said: “I remember the initial welcome I received at Big C, it was brilliant. No doubt I arrived in floods of tears and needing strong coffee. They were great. So that’s where I headed during my treatment days, during the waits, during the difficult days.”
First she underwent major surgery to remove the tumour along with a large part of her bowel and the creation of a temporary stoma.
Just three weeks later, she underwent seven months of gruelling weekly chemotherapy. During the treatment she was unfortunate to suffer all the side effects possible.
She said: “The most debilitating side effect was the extreme joint pain, which meant on many days I was unable to get out of bed. My husband often had to carry me to the bathroom. During these dark days I never imagined being able to contemplate running a marathon.
Soon after, Mrs Dugdale-Evans suffered with chronic fatigue and this has become a long-term side effect she has had to live with.
She said: “I have always been a very positive person but I struggled at the end of my treatment mentally and am left living with anxiety now. A cancer diagnosis was very much a life changing illness for me.”
It was the aftermath that proved the hardest and Mrs Dugdale-Evans found it difficult to explain things to her family and friends, to process what she had been through – this was when things hit her the hardest.
“I wanted to talk about what happened to me but others around me just didn’t know how to,” she said.
She had several sessions with a Big C counsellor, which gave her the tools to cope.
Plus nutrition sessions to help with the no fibre diet necessitated by the type of surgery and stoma she needed.
She said: “It was such useful information and I would often pop into the centre to return books, enjoy a complementary massages, therapy or counselling. Plus the many coffees, biscuits and tissues. The Big C Centre and team were always welcoming and had time for me when I was overwhelmed by it all.
“I really needed that non-medical environment, it was such a comforting and relaxing space to be in. Good to get away from what going on. I’m keen to say thank you by raising as much money as possible for the charity.”
During her treatment, Mrs Dugdale-Evans had many days where she couldn’t even walk up the stairs without her husband’s help, so to think she is attempting a marathon now goes to show her determination.
She said: “I’ve always been a strong and positive person but I got to a place where I was rock bottom. It was actually when I received the all clear. I thought I’d be celebrating but that’s when the task began of trying to piece my life together again. Although it was great to be signed off it was a really scary time. I needed to get a lot off my chest and begin to understand that feelings were normal. Big C helped me to learn tactics for coping and how to deal with others’ responses.”
“It’s been life-changing but good things have come out of it. I’m a better person because I have even more consideration and compassion for others, especially those going through an ‘invisible illness’. So what better way to celebrate than by undertaking a huge challenge of running a marathon.
“This distance is hard for anyone let alone for someone that has experienced cancer. But I feel very passionately about supporting local smaller charities that has been of great support to myself, family and friends. So this is me saying thank you for everything, biscuits included.”
To donate to Mrs Dugdale-Evans’ JustGiving page click here.
Dr Bushby added: “For the past 13 years our expert team at our NNUH centre has provided a bedrock of support, information, well-being therapies, tea, biscuits and a comforting ear to many thousands of Norfolk people affected by cancer, often when they are attending hospital appointments, or during treatment. In addition to this, there is a crucial need to now provide the same level of support for those experiencing cancer and all who surround them, nearer to where they live in the community.
“In addition to an upsurge in cancer diagnoses, cancer survival rates have doubled in the UK over the past 40 years since Big C was founded and there are many more people learning to cope with living with cancer. Big C centres are non-clinical by intention, a warm and homely environment offering a place of calm.
“Following treatment, or when not attending appointments, we know that many people want to access this kind of support away from a hospital site. Our vision for a new Big C cancer support centre in the heart of Norwich will make a tremendous difference to these people’s lives and with the help of our amazing supporters, we can’t wait to make it happen.”
The new Norwich centre will also help meet the rising demand for Big C’s support services. Around 1,100 people every year are diagnosed with cancer in the Norwich area. This comprises 14pc of the 8,400 people that are diagnosed with cancer each year in Norfolk and Waveney.
In 2018, Big C centres were visited 25, 461 times. In 2019 the centres saw a 24pc increase in visits compared to the previous year between January and April.
And Dr Bushby said The Nearer to Home appeal was central to the charity’s ethos.
Big C was founded in 1980 when local men David Moar and Clive Bamford endured lengthy journeys to receive their own cancer treatment and vowed to ensure that local people had access to outstanding treatment and support, close to where they live. And their legacy continues today.
Dr Bushby added: “But this only happens thanks to the incredible local support we receive. None of us like to think about whether ourselves or our loved ones will need this kind of service, but it’s important to know it’s there if we do. Every single donation, no matter how small, is very gratefully received.”
– To donate to Big C’s Nearer to Home Appeal online click here or donate £10 by texting BIGC to 70191. Alternatively, cheques made payable to Big C (Ref. Nearer to Home) can be sent to Big C, Centrum, Norwich Research Park, Colney Lane, Norwich, N74 7UG.
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