We are delighted with the feedback received from delegates about Barbara Wilson’s presentation on ‘Working with and After Lymphoma’, at the Lymphoma Action National Conference, held in Manchester on 12th May.
Barbara’s session received positive feedback with 95% of respondents rating it as either 4 or 5 out of a possible 5:
The following comments were made on her presentation:
- Uplifting positive advice
- Excellent and so informative
- Very useful an excellent speaker
- Excellent and very relevant and understanding the law
- Really interesting and informative
- Amazing! I wish I’d heard this 2-3 years ago
- Thoroughly enjoyable talk, a very inspiring lady
- Very useful – recommend all to know their right in the work place
I reached out to Working with Cancer (WWC) after landing myself a job rather more quickly than I expected! Being diagnosed at 20  and leaving university prematurely, I had never entered the world of full time employment but I knew there would be additional hurdles I’d have to navigate as a result. I initially heard about WWC at a Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) event and referred myself to the service using the website and phone numbers. I was directed to Sarah as my ‘local’ contact.
Sarah always gave the impression that she wanted the best for me and that made me feel like I deserved that outcome too, she made sure I knew where I stood – on a legal government policy level – and offered me information that gave me the confidence to approach the right people at my new place of employment so I am now able to get the most out of work and they can get the most out of me. Without Sarah’s help I don’t think I would have been as able to have the conversations I have had with my employer; her guidance and support empowered me to stand up for myself. Thank you Sarah, I really appreciate our conversations and continued support.
My level of confidence would absolutely have stayed low had I not received Maggie Newton’s support and coaching – It was so comforting and refreshing to talk to someone who really understood the challenges of finding a new normal and blending back into the working environment again. It was fair, balanced, thorough and aligned to what I needed – I always felt comfortable to speak very openly and explore what I was feeling every time. It has helped me learn to breathe easier again, when cancer made everything seem so compressed and tight before. Maggie – from the bottom of my heart; thank you for all your help, kindness and support over the past months. You not only guided me through my phased return, you helped me to find my feet again emotionally and I’ll always be grateful for it. You’re great at what you do, and the way you use your experiences is both inspirational and enlightening.
If I had not had coaching), I would not have had the opportunity to speak to someone who is both wise and kind and who has been through this experience themselves. I would not have been able properly to understand what to expect, and then plan appropriately, both during my lighter induction chemo, then through my time off work when I was recovering
from the stem cell transplant. I would not have been able to discuss my personal strategy and receive extremely useful advice and guidance upon the best approaches to work during treatment and post my return. It has been extremely useful. Furthermore the coach herself was brilliant, friendly, kind, considerate, extremely knowledgeable, and inspired great trust. Thank you very much for everything.
I want to thank Barbara for all of the help and support over the last couple of years. She helped when my wife died. She provided good advice on how to handle work. Also ideas on how to handle life at home. In the end she helped me negotiate a contract that is the best for me and my children.
Iain Christopher, Schroders Luxembourg
Having the fantastic support and guidance from Sarah Dawson and “working with cancer” has given me the confidence to go back into learning and follow my dream career of hopefully becoming a social worker with a cancer organisation. At first I was extremely nervous about getting in contact with “working with cancer” but soon after speaking to Sarah on the phone I felt a real relief and she gave me the encouragement I needed. Sarah was very approachable and I felt like I could easily open up to her (laughs and tears) and she understood that I was an individual and the coaching was tailored for me. I was given homework to complete which included creating a CV which was very daunting to begin with as I had never done anything like this before but Sarah supported me along the way with her knowledge and experience teaching me points on how to make myself sound the very best I can be and I always have these to refer back to if I ever need them again. I would really look forward to our phone calls as Sarah widened our conversations and we were able to talk about general life as well as cancer and this was a huge help.
Since being in contact with Sarah she has given me the confidence to take the first steps in doing what I’m passionate about and I have finally applied for college after years of thinking about it and started volunteering with local charities to hopefully get my foot in the door. I know I wouldn’t have been as far on in doing all of this if it weren’t for her support and guidance so I can’t thank her enough and recommend anyone who is struggling through getting back into the workplace or following a dream career to get in touch!
I think everyone should have coaching! I would say that it has been absolutely invaluable. It was like having a supporter providing guidance from the sidelines and helped me to address issues that predated cancer but which I felt more urgently that I wanted to address after cancer. It has been incredibly helpful. I have learned so much about myself and it has helped me appreciate the silver linings of the experience of having cancer. I would like to encourage my employer to make better use of the Working with Cancer coaching to make sure that HR support to employees suffering with cancer is strong. Without coaching I would have no sense of what my rights are, and what I could and should be asking for in terms of support. I would have struggled to identify my goals and the aspects of a career that matter to me and what I want to get out of working. I would have lacked the confidence to negotiate a new role.
CF, Senior Risk Adviser
I would not be smiling now and would not feel as calm and as prepared as I do to deal with potential difficulties in the future. Coaching made me think of so many small things that were actually important but I had dismissed – such as will colleagues recognise me and what do I tell them. I only wish that everyone with cancer returning to work could have it. It made a MASSIVE difference to help me return as a confident strong woman instead of a scared, self-conscious cancer patient.
Liz O’Riordan, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, following the coaching support she received from Barbara Wilson, Working with Cancer
I just wanted to say thank you so much for your time, thoughts and general encouragement. I feel I’ve really benefited from your creative ideas (and another perspective) on all aspects of my situation. I’ve found the feedback emails and my ‘to do’ lists really helpful and have referred back to them. I’m also grateful that you widened our conversations to include cancer and other life-stuff. It does all form part of the picture and has been much appreciated.
Barbara provided training to the HR team in how to manage employees affected by cancer and gave us a number of new insights into the challenges people face especially on returning to work after treatment. Because of her particular blend of professional and personal experience, Barbara understands not only the HR and business issues we must deal with in helping someone return to work, but also the physical and psychological impact of cancer on employees and this makes her advice particularly helpful. We think Barbara is providing a really useful and unique service for employers and employees affected by cancer.
Siobhan Cifelli, HR Director, Aon UK Limited
Working With Cancer is an important initiative, one that now forms part of our overall health and wellbeing strategy. It integrates well and is complementary to our EAP and Occupational Health programmes. What Barbara brings to her work is a wealth of HR knowledge, expertise gained at the most senior level and a unique perspective based on her personal experience of cancer and returning to work.
Louise Hosking, Head of Resourcing and Development, Schroders
Barbara was one of the first people in the UK to see a need to help people of working age affected by cancer to return to work and to campaign for better support services. She has made and continues to make a valuable contribution to the services being made available to those with cancer as well as working carers. What Barbara brings to her work is a wealth of HR knowledge and expertise gained at the most senior level and a unique perspective based on her personal experience of cancer and returning to work.
Professor Sir Michael Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals
Barbara has been working with Macmillan in a number of capacities on our Work and Cancer campaign for several years – she was one of the first people to recognise the importance of returning to work after cancer which followed as a result of her own experience. Her knowledge and experience have proved invaluable in helping us develop information and training materials for employers, employees and carers. We wish her well in this venture which provides new in-depth support for those affected by cancer.
Ciaran Devane, CEO Macmillan Cancer Support
Barbara’s sessions offer excellent understanding and guidance to enable patients to return to work with success. They are hugely valued by our patients and by Living Well at LOC.
Dr. ‘Michelle Kohn, Director Living Well Programme, LOC – Leaders in Oncology Care
My employer organised the support from Barbara and I had no idea what to expect. My world was crazy, in a few short weeks from feeling fit and well I had been diagnosed with cancer, undergone treatment including surgery and returned to work, albeit on a phased return, whilst waiting for a second operation. Just hearing the word ‘cancer’ changes everything.
Barbara made me feel at ease the minute I met her; she has been there and understands. Our meetings provided confidential and dedicated time for me to explore this new world that I was catapulted into. A key tool given to me was a graph explaining that the journey ahead would move forward; not in a smooth forward motion, it would be a twisted rollercoaster of highs and lows.
What was valuable was to meet with Barbara and my line manager to enable the support to be there for him and for him to understand the work we were undertaking. Everything I shared was my decision; Barbara maintains confidentiality. She understands that each person is individual and the support/coaching is tailored for you.
Our sessions included laughter, tears, chocolate biscuits and hard work. Barbara understood what I needed and provided homework which allowed me to explore the situation and understand the facts. For at the same time I was line manager to a cancer patient and wanted to do my very best for them.
I am privileged to be a ‘cancer survivor’ and I now know that returning to work is neither an escape nor a return to normality. I am so fortunate to have an employer who provided the support of Working with Cancer. Return to work is not easy, but with supportive colleagues and the expertise from Barbara, it is possible to return stronger and better equipped as all you learn with Barbara benefits all areas of your life; personal and work. Thank you Barbara.
Julie Farmer, Group Networks Manager, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)
Following an operation for cancer in the summer of 2015 and a period of 6 months off work to recover, I was naturally apprehensive about my return to work and fitting back into my role whilst still adjusting to the ‘new’ me. Barbara immediately put me at ease and I felt comfortable discussing all my concerns. Due to Barbara’s own personal experiences and her extensive knowledge, Barbara was able to provide invaluable advice, guidance and support which I have no doubt helped me regain my confidence. I would definitely recommend Barbara’s services to anyone returning to work after a cancer diagnosis.
Hayley Towse, Networks Administrator, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)
Barbara was invaluable in providing guidance and support not only to the member of staff returning to work, but also for me as a manager. Being able to share concerns and seek advice around what is often a very difficult subject was critical to ensuring a successful outcome for everyone was achieved.
James Thorne, Executive Director – Membership, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)
I would like to say thank you so much for your talk at the Way Forward Programme in Newcastle. It has given me new hope with my search to return to normalcy and life. I’m not sure if you remember meeting me before your presentation, but I told you about my struggles with job interviews and the questions asked, and also the feeling that employers saw my prior cancer diagnosis as something to best avoid.
Your talk has really relieved me of these worries and has armed me with assertiveness (not rudeness), if it ever was to arise again.The work you do changes lives like mine everyday and for that I am ever grateful.
J.O. Way Forward Programme, Teenage Cancer Trust
“Barbara helped me to prioritise, set goals that were realistic and learn not to run before I could walk. Occupational health were good, but their focus was practical, not psychological. Barbara helped contextualise it. It would have taken me much longer to find my feet without her. Some people might have gone under because they weren’t dealing with it”
This is an excerpt from an article published in People Management, October 2013. Read the full article herePeople Mgt october 2013
Andre Sohatski, Secondary School Headteacher
Like many I was so eager to “get back to normal” and a large part of that was to get back to work. So much so that instead of taking three months out, I took two. I’m lucky to have an amazing line manager who along with my cancer nurse ensured I built up my hours slowly; she also asked if I would like to meet with Barbara. It seemed to make sense to me; I had a wonderful medical team looking after my health, why not see what Barbara had to offer about work.
What I didn’t plan on was that going back to work wouldn’t equate with my idea of getting back to normal and due to the nature of the work it wasn’t an escape from Cancer at all. At times I felt overwhelmed and was shocked that the confident and positive personality that I had at work before my illness disappeared some days. Barbara not only guided me through these times, she often pre-empted them, normalised them and showed me how to progress.
For those sceptical of this kind of service, please do consider working with Barbara, she is not patronising nor is she “new age”, she is compassionate, honest and straightforward. I for one did not know what to expect at the start and I can honestly now say that I can’t thank her enough.
Debi Hughes, Supplier Relationship Manager
Using this service was obviously helpful to my employee, significantly supporting her return to work, but it was also a great help to me as her line manager. Just knowing that we were giving that person the best possible help and experience, and that there was someone that I could get advice and information from without compromising the trust and confidentiality was so reassuring. Very useful during a difficult time, especially when I hadn’t been in this situation before.
Laura Holt, Senior Manager
I was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2013. I returned back to work at large asset management firm in the City after completing my treatment which involved 6 months of chemotherapy.
My initial thoughts after treatment were to ‘get back to normal’ which involved getting back to work as soon as possible in exactly the same manner as I had done before the diagnosis.
Quite soon I realised that returning to work after cancer required more thought and understanding about how best to set things up so that I could be as effective as possible whilst acknowledging the recovery required in returning to work after cancer.
Barbara was invaluable in helping me think through how best to structure my return to work in a way that allowed me to be my most effective self.
She was also instrumental in helping me set the right expectations of myself and my employer to ensure that my return to work was realistic and achievable.
I would highly recommend support from Barbara for anyone who is facing similar challenges
RF, Quantitative Analyst
As the carer of a cancer patient, Barbara helped me deal with the anxiety and fears relating to my husband’s illness. I learned strategies to help me work through these thoughts so that they don’t consume me. She has empowered me to maintain control and see past my fears and anxieties.
ZF, Project Manager
On my return to work after cancer treatment I was asked… “would you be interested in meeting a lady who provides help for people who are returning to work after being treated for cancer?”
By nature I am a sceptical person, so my immediate reaction was that this wasn’t for me, but my wife persuaded me to give it a try, so I took the opportunity my employer gave me. I am so glad I did.
I found it helpful to be able to talk to somebody who had been through cancer themselves and who knew how it made you feel. My conversations with Barbara made me feel human again, it wasn’t just about being back in the office, but all aspects of life afterwards. The phrase that I’ll always remember Barbara saying, was simple but so true… “It’s ok to feel tired and different, it’s only to be expected.”
KS, Fund Accountant
The medical profession tend to help you through treatment but then ‘cast you adrift’ so having someone to talk to who really understood my situation was really helpful . I would not be at work today of it wasn’t for my coach. I just know I would have given up.
LW, Risk Analyst
I now realise that returning to work after cancer takes time and patience. In hindsight we all recognise that L returned to work too early.
PW, Line Manager, Risk Team