Brain Tumour Support's unique network of regional Support Groups for brain tumour patients and their loved ones has proved a lifeline for many facing the trauma of a brain tumour diagnosis. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic these group meetings had to be put on hold, but the need to bring people together and lift spirits at this difficult time is greater than ever and so Brain Tumour Support has adapted its service to hold video chat groups instead. Using both Zoom and Skype, which enable large numbers of people to connect via video and audio, we have already held over 10 video chats, each facilitated by a trained Brain Tumour Support Worker. These have been very popular, with numbers attending ranging from 5 to more than 20, and some surprising outcomes.
“We’ve kept our chats very informal,” says James Bartlett, Brain Tumour Support Worker for South East Wales. “Many have never tried video chat before and have had to step out of their comfort zone in order to join it. Many commented on how lovely it was to see people’s faces, sharing smiles and laughter. For some, who had been in extended lockdown because they are immuno-compromised due to chemotherapy, this was welcome relief. It was great to see Rhian Burke, Clinical Nurse Specialist from Velindre Cancer Centre at the meeting. She too is having to come to terms with a different way of working and she was very impressed that we are still providing a service.” For some, the technology has enabled them to attend a Support Group for the first time. Many of the people that the charity supports have had to surrender their driving licences and, especially if living remotely, that makes it very difficult to attend a normal Support Group. Sarah Erskine, Brain Tumour Support Worker for Herefordshire, said: “I have been supporting one gentleman on the phone for a while and it was lovely to see his face for the first time! He had never been able to attend a Support Group before and he loved taking part in our video chat.” Steve Miller, Brain Tumour Support Worker for South East Wales, has found new benefits in video chats for patients who experience speech difficulties due to the tumour location or side effects from surgery. “Being able to see facial expressions and lip movements helped me understand one lady better than I would normally understand her on the phone,” said Steve. “She really appreciated the contact and I think we will definitely continue to use video chats, even after this crisis is over.” Details of forthcoming Support Group Video Chats and how to access them will be available shortly on our website.