John Oakley, a support staffer at London Fire Brigade’s Southwark Training Centre, accessed the Charity’s services at Harcombe House and Jubilee House after finding out he would need a knee replacement, and also discovering that he had cancer of the kidney.
After undergoing a partial nephrectomy, and knee surgery, he explained: “I was just going to take time off, but a few people at work mentioned the Charity and said I should get in touch. So I did. The staff were very good, and the centres are so welcoming and friendly. They encourage you and keep an eye on you to make sure you’re doing things right.”
John says being able to use the Charity’s psychological support services was extremely beneficial: “I didn’t think I needed the support, and it was only because of the nurse who encouraged me that I went. I found that even though I didn’t realise it myself I wanted the help, even a little bit of talking helps a lot. The staff treated me as an individual and gave me care I hadn’t really received before that point.”
“A very good experience – it helped me in more ways than one, not only physically but mentally.”
He says: “I kept having these ‘magic moments’, where all of a sudden, for no reason, I would just burst out crying – in a treatment session in the gym, or during a talk about how the injury had affected me. The pain was getting to me but I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t accept that I couldn’t go back to how I was – things like bending down, picking things up. Seeing the psychologist really helped. When I first saw her, I was holding everything in, and our first talk hit a few nerves, so I went away and thought about the things we’d talked about.
“When I went back for the second time, I realised everything she’d said about my life was accurate – I thought I could carry on all by myself, and really, I couldn’t. I was bottling things up. She also asked me to make an appointment to see a cancer counselling service (Paul’s Cancer Support Centre), in Battersea, London. I went to see them for about 8-9 weeks afterwards, and we really explored the ins and outs of it all and found a few things that were holding me back. The outcome was better than I had expected.”
John says his time at the centres helped him come to terms with his injury and illness: “Now I actually tell people how I feel – before, I’d put a wall up about my cancer diagnosis. Everybody has to accept that they have to adapt, because that’s what I didn’t do.”
John says of rehabilitation: “You don’t go there for two weeks of holiday – you might as well give it to someone else. Use the services provided – that’s what I liked about it. I had to do the exercises, go in the gym and use the hydropool. You’re there to work, but because of the friendliness, it’s not hard. If I could, I would recommend everyone to do it. I am due to visit Marine Court this Spring and I am looking forward to the progress I will make.”