Life with a serious illness is awful at the best of times but the pandemic has compounded those feelings of isolation and anxiety. 

Thornton Heath resident Cheryl Johnson, who is living with cancer wanted to provide an outlet for not only people going through a similar journey but for their carers.

The Cancer Creativity programme was set up to share stories through photos, art, experience mindfulness sessions, makeup and skincare sessions, hold discussions about sex and cancer, create festive décor and learn about healthy cooking and baking. 

The aim of the programme was to bring positivity, a sense of community and creativity into the lives of people who may be affected by cancer. 

The sessions started in November and will run during the festive period and beyond helping with isolation, sharing new or developing creative skills while offering support to others in the group. 

Cheryl said: “As we all navigated the uncertainty and unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, it made me acutely aware of the impact isolation and loneliness was having on so many people. 

“Whilst I was familiar with this type of experience as I was living with cancer, it felt that a large portion of the population had never known what this felt like. Personally as the virus grew out of control, I found myself growing increasingly physically separated from other people due to shielding which compounded the feeling I already had through the impact of my illness. 

“From this I recognised that if I felt this way, there must be many more people living with cancer or looking after someone with cancer going through a similar journey.

“It was at this point that ‘Cancer Creativity’ was birthed. At its core it was a response to the reality that for people with cancer, Covid 19 quickly became a double intrusion. It put a halt on some of the treatments, planned operations and people not being diagnosed with cancer due to not wanting to contact their GP. 

She added: “As we are moving in and out of national and local lockdowns, cancer services may once again be reduced or stopped. With these growing anxieties we feel it is important that as a group, we are positioned to help ourselves and support each other “

The programme is available to all in the UK, but is particularly geared towards residents living in the Thornton Heath and Croydon area as this is where the initial call for a response emanated. 

The project has been backed immediately by a whole host of supporters including: Croydon SocialP, Macmillan Cancer Support, Palace for Life Foundation, Big Local Broad Green, Well Versed Ink, Look Good Feel Better, Mindfully Balanced, Jo Divine and Bogleboy.

To participate, go to Eventbrite, and enter ‘Cancer Creativity Nov 2020’ to sign up.