HAVING to cope with poor health is among the toughest challenges faced by patients, their families and friends, particularly if the prognosis is not good.

For many, the harsh reality is a diagnosis of a devastating disease that cannot be cured – and that is where Mel Robinson steps in.

Mel, 43, is part of a team of six nurses based at Woodlands Cancer Centre who help give people across Huntingdonshire palliative care, a whole package of measures that provide comfort and support.

“It’s all about quality of life,” said Mel, a community palliative nurse. “The goal is to achieve the best quality of life for patients and their families.

“You look at the whole person, everything that might affect them, anything important to them. That’s what I am there to deal with.”

The team, including an occupational 
therapist, works with GPs and district nurses, as well as Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s palliative care team, the hospital chaplain and hospices.

Mum-of-two Mel, who visits patients at their homes, covers the St Neots and Kimbolton patch.

As well as giving advice on how to manage pain and other symptoms, such as nausea and tiredness, she also helps with psychological, social and spiritual support. Help with accessing benefits and Macmillan grants is also provided, as well as assistance with arranging social care.

“Patients are often really very frightened but we can answer questions and allay fears with very honest answers,” she said. “When people know what to expect they often find it easier to manage.”

Mel, who swapped a career in hotel and catering for nursing in 2004, has 
been a member of the Woodlands team 
for about 18 months. She started on 
Hinchingbrooke’s Juniper Ward and then was a community staff nurse for three and a half years.

“It was in the community that I came across a lot of patients, not only with cancer but other non-curative conditions with palliative care needs and I was just drawn to it.

“It’s the satisfaction that you are helping someone through what is a really difficult time – making that journey as smooth as possible for them.”

Her children appear to have been inspired by their mum. Daughter, Hannah, 19, is a year into her nurse training and son, Kieran, who is 18 in August, wants to be a paramedic.

While Mel undoubtedly enjoys her role, she admits it is sometimes tough. “It can be a very sad job. I support patients through a really tough time. I feel privileged to have that job and build those relationships.”

INFORMATION: Acorn cancer support groups, for people suffering from cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, are held monthly in Huntingdon, St Ives, St Neots and Ramsey. Call the Woodlands Cancer Centre on 01480 416283.

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