Cancer en francais?

Blog posted by: Martin Christlieb

On 25 January, I met a group of people whose lives have been touched by cancer.  Patients and their relatives whose world had been turned upside down by a disease that will affect nearly half of us.

Cancer is terrible.  It threatens our lives and the resulting uncertainty and treatment often takes from us the freedom and empowerment to pursue the things we care about.

The group I met on Wednesday face all these challenges, but in the foothills of the Pyrenees they face the challenges in French.

Spurred on by the challenges of dealing with cancer in a second language, Linda Shepherd was inspired to set up an organisation to support English-speaking people who found themselves tackling cancer in France.  Cancer Support France (CSF) was born in Poitou Charente in 2002.

CSF offer support regardless of nationality; they simply support those who are more comfortable in English than in French; sometimes working with people from Bangladesh, Scandinavia, Germany and of course the UK.

Cancer Support France now consists of 14 groups across France.  They offer support with language, help getting members registered and integrated into the French healthcare system, and they offer ‘active listening’ emotional support delivered by trained volunteers.

As the autumn of 2017 arrived, it bought with it a request from Penny Parkinson, President of CSF and President of the Sud-de-France group.  Could we brief their members about some research at the AGM in Carcassonne? So, I got on a plane and met the remarkable people who offer support to English-speaking residents of the French Departments of the Aude, Ariege, Pyrénées-Orientales, Tarn and Tarn et Garonne. 

During my visit I heard about their work.  In 2017 they fielded 80 calls for help and extended an English-speaking hand to people touched by cancer.  I also had a chance to tell them something of the current state of radiotherapy and what the physicists at Oxford are doing to improve the effectiveness and reduce the side-effects.

Despite 16 years of work in France, there don’t appear to be equivalent groups in other parts of Europe. We’d love to hear from you if we’re wrong.

A huge thank you to CSF Sud-de-France for the privilege of talking to a remarkable group of people who have risen to the challenge of facing cancer in second language and responding by helping others to do so too.   

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