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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Glasgow charity launches life-changing book club

This news post is almost 3 years old

TRACTion Cancer Support has started a new positive book group to provide wellbeing support to those suffering in isolation 

A Scottish cancer charity has invited patients and their carers to join a new support group.

TRACTion Cancer Support, Scotland’s only charity dedicated to supporting those affected by head and neck cancers, has launched a new safely delivered support group specifically designed to reach patients and carers that are vulnerable, shielding and isolated and affected by cancer in any way.

The ‘Cosy Cuppa Club’ has been created in recognition of the growing mental health concerns the charity has for the most socially isolated cancer patients, with many reporting that they have not left the house for over a year.  

At the start of the pandemic, the Glasgow-based charity quickly recognised the detrimental impact that the crisis would have on the wellbeing of shielding individuals suffering with or recovering from cancer.

Suddenly unable to leave the house, not even for a ‘daily walk’, missing the benefits of usual support networks, receiving reduced medical care and all coupled with the increased anxiety of living in constant fear of hospital admittance during the period. In response, organisers rapidly switched the charity’s usual face to face support offerings to online and phone methods - the charity runs a 24/7 phone helpline.

Additionally, they set up a range of new activities to support health and wellbeing needs through each lockdown. These have included mindfulness support in partnership with the Kadampa Meditation Centre, arts and crafts care activities, quilling groups and self-directed massage technique tutorials to help with ongoing pain management. All activities are free for participants.

Now, following a small pilot at the start of the year, the charity is rolling out its newest initiative. Funded by Foundation Scotland, the TRACTion “Cosy Cuppa Club’” is a new take on a book club with the clear aim of supporting the health and wellbeing needs for the most isolated through Covid and beyond.

Lucy Armstrong, charity hub manager, TRACTion Cancer Support, said: “We are thrilled that the TRACTion Cancer Support Cosy Cuppa Club is already a huge success. People sign up on our website or through our social media platforms and identify their favoured genres of book to read. They then look forward to receiving a package personally prepared by us, containing a recommended read with a further ‘treat’ to support wellbeing needs. For example, a mug with herbal tea bag / hot chocolate sachet or a small bottle of bath oil. Examples of books offered so far include ‘Sound of the Hours’ by Karen Campbell and ‘Six’ by Harlan Coben.

“All the feedback we’ve already received tells us that our community are delighted to have something other than Covid or cancer to chat about and a shared love, or dislike, of a book can be an excellent starting point.”

Helen Johnston, 71, a breast and throat cancer survivor has been receiving support from TRACTion since the charity launched in 2018.

She said: “The book club has been great, a real lifeline. I live alone and it’s really been an incredibly hard year. I am a very social person and I have greatly missed all my usual hobbies and fun thing to look forward to. 

“TRACTion have been there for me throughout. I have enjoyed many of the activities on offer, but the book club is particularly special. Reading was not high on my to-do list I would always opt to browse the Internet or watch television. But then the package arrives and it’s like it’s my birthday, all beautifully wrapped and with a wee extra treat. When the book arrived I remembered how fantastic books can be, tactile and the smell of the paper is magical. 

“I now love to sit down with a book, cuddle up with my pup and escape to another world – far away from continual stresses and anxieties. I have enjoyed connecting with others and have made new friends with similar interests to me by taking part in the discussion groups. I know starting something new can be daunting, but I would really encourage anyone else suffering to get in touch with the charity to find out more. It’s free and it’s a real tonic through this horrific time”.

Mother of two Christine Gundry, 34, was diagnosed with mouth cancer 10 years ago and is grateful for all the support she has received from the charity. She said: “Thank you for our books and treats. They made our whole family smile! When you are dealing mouth cancer and its consequences a little kindness goes a long way. Nothing beats the distraction of getting lost in a good book!”

Liz Grant, founder and chair, TRACTion Cancer Support, said: “It’s with huge thanks to funding from Foundation Scotland that we have been able to set up our Cosy Cuppa Club - a book club with a difference. The club is already connecting people to inspiring stories, providing escapism, helping change perspective, providing positivity and is ultimately creating a new community virtually, and safely, connecting people to discuss something that is a world away from both cancer and Covid.

“Many of our members cannot afford to regularly purchase a new book and greatly miss being able to browse library shelves to pick up something different to get lost in. Being enabled to offer this new activity is an absolute delight.

“So far over 30 people are thoroughly enjoying the benefits of belonging to our new community and we have capacity to double this across the coming months. If you, or someone you know, could benefit please from the Cosy Cuppa Club, please visit the website to find out more.”