The course is made up of a series of workshops, looking at a variety of topics.
Genette Webster, Learning and Development Manager for Macmillan in Wales, spoke about what is covered in the classes:
“…HOPE looks at various techniques and strategies to help people live positively with a cancer diagnosis, [and] has a really strong emphasis on positivity and goal setting.
"So the sorts of topics we look at are, each week we would look at a small goal and perhaps building up your goal from week to week; we look at things like living with a fear of recurrence…we explore our character strengths and our priorities and values; as well as those things like managing stress, managing fatigue, body changes and intimacy, communication – the kind of topics that people want to cover and to discuss…”
Anyone who is able to commit to the six classes, and has a cancer diagnosis, is able to attend the course – which can accommodate between six and 12 participants.
Macmillan’s self-management course is not alone in the UK, as the NHS runs a self-management programme for sufferers of chronic (long-term) illnesses. The NHS-run course is called the Expert Patients Programme, or EPP.
Providing a means of emotional support, the HOPE course has sparked friendships in the past – based on a shared experience, and similar interests.
Talking about this in-group support, Genette said:
“We have experienced the situation where most people tend to find they make a connection in some way, whether that’s a close bond with just one individual or whether it’s the group as a whole…
"…we’ve got examples where, in parts of the country, people who’ve been on the HOPE self-management course are still meeting regularly, just as informal support groups…
"I also get emails from people who tell me they’ve made friendships, they go out for lunch, or a drink, and they do normal social things that perhaps might have dropped out of their life…”
Going beyond emotional benefits, in financial terms, self-management has been shown to have positive effects.
In 2010 it was found that, having attended the NHS’s EPP course, 50 per cent of people reported having fewer unscheduled visits to their GP or A&E, and 35 per cent of reducing their use of medication. Taking this into account, it is estimated to have saved £1,800 per (participating) person, per year.
The course is free for participants, and is funded by Macmillan. During the interview Genette wanted to say that, without the support of volunteers, fundraisers and supporters, Macmillan would be unable to put on free courses such as these.