New cancer strategy puts patient ‘more at the centre of things’

Cancer survivor Rhona Nally welcomes new strategy but worries about resources

Rhona Nally, who is living with secondary breast cancer said the new National Cancer Strategy “puts the patient more at the centre of things” with more emphasis on psychological and social support but questioned how it will be implemented.

Ms Nally, who is originally from Co Roscommon and now lives in Dublin, was diagnosed with primary breast cancer in her mid-40s in September 2003. She had just finished treatment at St James’s Hospital in September 2004 when she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.

"That was 13 years ago and obviously I'm very well," she told The Irish Times. "I'm on ongoing maintenance treatment with Herceptin and I've had a really good response to that.

“The strategy today is very important in that it puts the patient more at the centre of things and they are more focused on other aspects apart from the medical treatment, things like the psychological and social support and there’ll be a patient advisory forum. That’s all very positive. The worry is the implementation of it, of where they’ll get the resources.”


Lack of services

Ms Nally currently works with the Irish Cancer Society as a peer support volunteer and meets others who have received a similar diagnosis of secondary cancer.

“From my own experiences, I knew there was a lack of services, particularly for secondary patients so that’s why I became involved with them,” she said.

“For a lot of patients, it’s the isolation, the lack of a network, a lack of support. They don’t know where to turn to look for it. I did access support services but I had to work to find them. My medical treatment has been excellent all along the way but the other services are harder to access.”

Ms Nally said she received psycho-oncology support at St James’s Hospital, along with relaxation, stress management and reflexology services at the Irish Cancer Society.

“I very much focused on doing what I could to maximise my chances in terms of gaining information and finding out about nutrition and exercise, new treatments and all of that. I felt I wanted to take back some control,” she added.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times