by Ellen Yates
I used to regularly attend my local Brain Tumour Support Group in Cornwall but since lockdown I've not been able to do that. Instead, I have taken part in numerous groups, meeting people from up and down the country without leaving the comfort of my front room!
The video chat groups offered by Brain Tumour Support are an invaluable service for people who, like me, are dealing with the effects of a brain tumour. While we would all rather still be meeting up in person, these chats give us a chance to connect.
For many people with a brain tumour attending a Support Group meeting is a reason to get out of bed and interact with others experiencing the same things as themselves.
But I have always felt bad for those who are not able to physically attend such meetings due to many reasons including mobility issues, travel issues and meeting times or location.
But the virtual meetings give these people the chance to attend and meet and interact with others who they would not necessarily meet apart from on Facebook. Facebook is a wonderful tool but it can be impersonal, whereas a video chat allows those who attend the chats to see others face-to-face and friendships are formed as a result.
When anyone receives a brain tumour diagnosis it is like a bomb going off. It disconnects you from everything and life changes. But being in contact with others in the same situation helps you to reconnect to life again.
Video chats might not be for everyone, but those who have taken part thoroughly enjoy the interaction. The chat might be about something in particular or just general chit chat - the main thing is the interaction.
As with the Support Group meetings, it is a good way to spread information in relation to different brain tumour topics. For example, one of our Cornish members is due to have radiation and is worried about it. But by talking about it in a recent video chat she now has a buddy who has gone through it beforehand and can guide her and answer any questions.
I think Brain Tumour Support has adjusted well to the current situation surrounding Covid 19 and I am so thankful that the services the charity offers have not had to be withdrawn altogether.
There are of course downsides to video chats. A certain level of interaction is missing – those hugs that are so important to many of us; a reassuring touch on the shoulder when you are upset - all those things matter. Sometimes in physical meetings, people may want to have private chats separate from the group and that is not really possible in a video chat. The meetings can also be a struggle for someone with hearing loss or someone who is easily overwhelmed seeing lots of people all at the same time, but that can also be the case in physical meetings.
Oh and cake! Cake is an important part of our Support Group meetings – someone always brings something lovely to share. But you can’t do that on Zoom!
I do hope we can meet in person again soon and share hugs and cake, but in the meantime, these virtual meetings are helping me, and so many others, stay in touch and feel less alone.
We are extremely grateful to the Cornwall Community Foundation for their support of our work during the Coronavirus pandemic. Through the Cornwall Emergency Appeal, the Foundation awarded Brain Tumour Support a grant of £3,000 which has enabled us to adapt our services and continue to provide vital support in Cornwall throughout the current crisis.
If you, or someone you know, would like to connect with others in a similar situation, please contact our Support Team for details for the various support services Brain Tumour Support can offer (firstname.lastname@example.org, 01454 422701)