Oh, what a year!

Oh, what a year!

 “We have big ambitions for Cancer Support Scotland, 2020 marks our 40th and we will be announcing our new strategy and a new visual brand. We are a charity on the rise again, supporting our staff and volunteers to ensure we are standing side by side with people affected by cancer focusing on their wellbeing. I’m sure year 2 will have its challenges however with coffee, friends, resilience and some fun I am sure we will get through just fine.”…….

This was the closing paragraph at the end of my year 1 blog. It was filled with hope for the future and some caution about potential bumps in the road. It was however also written whilst completely unaware that three months later I would be closing all face-to-face services for an unknown time.

Year 1 was tough, yet there was an energy around it with many introductions over coffee, meetings, and events. Year 2 has been completely different, there is no manual for normal times and with COVID19 thrown in – as Pat Armstrong says: “We are redesigning the plane whilst in flight”.

Here for your wellbeing

As the national lockdown began, we launched our new strategy- ‘Here for your Wellbeing’. This was a bold and ambitious plan for how the charity wanted to work in collaboration to improve the wellbeing of those affected by cancer across the nation. After almost 18 months of preparation, I was proud to see the strategy and new brand launch and for it to gain the seal of approval from our founder Professor Sir Kenneth Calman.

In a matter of days from launching we would be poring over our digital element of the strategy which was planned to take 2 years and instead focus on putting this into action in a matter of weeks.

COVID Financial Impact

Like most charities Cancer Support Scotland, was hit hard financially due to the lockdown and the cancellation of many events. Our Board, based on my recommendations, came to the hard decision to furlough over 50% of our staff and then latterly a restructure, which saw 50% of the team being made redundant – truly devastating. As a leader of a small team, it is hugely challenging to do the right thing for everyone whilst focused on the sustainability of the organisation. After all, we are human, and we don’t get it always right. My resilience was tested, and I cannot thank my support network enough.

Our work

Our vision is to support the wellbeing of those affected by cancer across Scotland. Whilst we are living in uncertain times one thing is clear, the need for Cancer Support Scotland has never been stronger. We are supporting more people than ever and in our 40th year that provides me with comfort for our future.

The whole staff team at Cancer Support Scotland have worked exceptionally hard to respond proactively to the crisis, ensuring we can support those affected by cancer with alternative service offerings. I provided an update in August which highlighted:

  • a 30% increase in counselling sessions delivered between May – December this year compared to last year.
  • 1,193 ‘Here for You’ support calls taking place to reduce loneliness and isolation
  • 42 self-help guides produced (updated each month)
  • 16 virtual stress management sessions delivered

During these challenging times, I have been impressed with the dedication, motivation, and forward-facing approach the fundraising team within Cancer Support Scotland have taken. This has been truly remarkable and has reminded me of the importance of staying strong for the future

In closing…

I am not going to predict how year 3 will be in post… If the last few weeks are anything to go by, I think 2021 is going to maybe give us some hope. This will give us all a chance to recharge those resilience batteries.

As a leader of a cancer charity, I have a responsibility to facilitate, inspire and motivate my team. If 2020 has taught me anything it’s that if I don’t have my own mask on during a crisis, how on earth am I meant to carry out those responsibilities. I have set myself three challenges for 2021: continue to do the right thing, make more time for myself (such as hobbies) and finally deliver more acts of kindness.


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