MelanomaMe. was founded in April 2017 following director Kerry Rafferty's own experience with fighting malignant melanoma. A melanoma diagnosis can be a very lonely and isolating journey for a person and has been described as an emotional rollercoaster. Kerry's personal journey inspired her to team up with friend and fellow director Elaine Taylor to offer a support service for people effected by either their own or their loved one's melanoma diagnosis. The fundamental purpose of MelanomaMe. was to reduce loneliness, build relationships, support patients and their loved ones emotional resilience through counselling and to provide treatment information through advocacy with teams involved in the patients care.
MelanomaMe. has now developed into a team of 8 counsellors and 2 support workers who are currently working with over 248 individuals across the North East. The individuals that we work with include family members whom have lost relatives to the disease, patients ranging from stage 1 to stage 4 and patients loved ones whom are working through their own feelings regarding the diagnosis of someone that they love. Carers and patients often advise that it is really difficult to talk through these feelings with someone so close to them who are going through their own process. We are able to offer a safe space to talk through feelings through either counselling, support, group work and holistic therapies.
Patients with malignant melanoma describe the effect on mental health as being impacted by hyper vigilance. there is no clear image as to what a malignant lesion looks like, therefore no two melanoma’s look the same and can be extremely difficult to identify. Melanoma has no ‘all clear’ and as a result of this patients lose trust in a body that has conspired against them to cause cancer. Patients have issues with body image due to surgeries and scarring and some may have to come to terms with preparing for their own death. MelanomaMe. reduces mental health impact by encouraging patients to work through and externalise these feelings which reduces stress and anxiety. We have reduced isolation by providing group activities such as makeovers and personal development exercises which has helped patients and their loved ones to form friendships and support networks with other people whom are experiencing similar emotions.
Patients loved ones also experience their own process and often find it difficult to talk to the patient as they feel that they are expected to be 'strong' when they sometimes don't feel it. Although they are not fighting melanoma they are still going through similar emotions as well as some having to work through grief following the loss of their loved one.
Our service has been available to people across the whole of the North East over the past 18 months and takes place in our offices in Washington and all of our counsellors and support workers have had either their own experience with malignant melanoma or have had specific training. The patients and loved ones live in Newcastle, Sunderland and County Durham and are offered open ended support.
We would love to be able to access more patients as there is currently approximately 15,400 diagnosis of melanoma each year and 2,500 deaths nationwide. With this amount of people effected loneliness and isolation is still very much behind closed doors and we would like to strengthen communities by forming support networks as well as promote healthier emotional resilience when facing such a deadly cancer. The whole team at MelanomaMe. work voluntarily and we would love to see such a valuable service have longevity and be able to continue this much needed service for as long as possible.