Macmillan nurse Julie Hills Johnson, known as JJ, provides specialised cancer services to people living in Cambridgeshire, thanks to a successful funding partnership between the charity and a leading retailer.
Julie cares for patients with lung cancer and cancer of the unknown primary (CUP) at Hinchingbrooke Hospital and is one of a team of nurses who provide support to people living with cancer across Cambridgeshire.
M&S started supporting Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning seven years ago, and since then, its stores nationwide have helped to raise £6million for the charity which has helped to fund specialist Macmillan services in local communities across the UK.
As well as pain and symptom management and psychological support, Julie often finds herself offering practical help and a shoulder to cry on.
“I’ve been in this post for a year now, and for lung patients we see a lot of people who are not yet diagnosed, but who have pre-cancer symptoms,” she said.
“Those with CUP are often unwell and stressed due to the nature of their cancer. By the time CUP patients come through to us, they have often been through the mill and all they need is honesty and support. And that’s what we give them.”
Julie has been a nurse for 28 years and has worked in cardiology, paediatrics and oncology and although the nature of her job undoubtedly means some sadness she knows she can have a huge impact on people’s lives.
“A young woman came to me about a year ago and she was undergoing extensive treatment and unfortunately, things hadn’t gone the way we wanted them to go. Compounding the situation was that she was living in a one bedroom flat with her family while going through chemotherapy and they had mould and damp and it really wasn’t suitable for her to be living like that, so I spent hours and hours on the phone and finally got her more suitable living situation.”
Julie says the Macmillan title is important as it is something most people recognise and trust.
“It makes a huge difference because people immediately know who you are and where you’re from. I’m often a safety net for people, the reassuring voice on the end of the phone. For people who have been newly diagnosed it can be very frightening and we also offer support to family and friends.
I treat people like they are one of family. Everybody is someone’s mum or dad, or sister or brother or friend. There is sadness and it always affects me, but I hope I have given paients the very best I can and allowed them to die with dignity and in the way they wanted to die.”
* Cancer of the unknown primary (CUP) is a rare disease in which malignant cells are found in the body, but the origin of the disease is not known.
* The signs and symptoms of CUP are different, depending on where the cancer has spread in the body.
* Since partnering with Macmillan, M&S has raised more than £6million to help people affected by cancer.
* In 2015, money from the retailer funded 26 Macmillan posts in communities in the UK.
* According to latest figures, 2.5 million people are currently living with cancer in the UK and that number is set to rise to four million by 2030.
* If you need to talk to someone about cancer, call Macmillan free on 0808 8080000, from Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm. There is also information on the website at: www.macmillan.org.uk.