Talkback at the Cancer Centre......
What a day today - the Talkback team were live at the NI Regional Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital. Its one of those places you're not in a big rush to visit, isn't it....unless of course you or your loved one have had a cancer diagnosis, in which case you can't get there soon enough!
Its still something many people just don't want to talk about - The Big C...its a taboo, so we set out to get a feeling of what its like to get a diagnosis, and to deal with and live with the disease in all its different forms.
Some facts and figures - 60,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with cancer ; that's one person on any bus you squeeze on to. Every year there are 5% more people who need radio therapy, 10% more on anti-cancer drugs. The radiotherapy unit deals with about 260 people a day - 80 new people start treatment every week, and another 80 leave. There are dozens going through chemotherapy as day patients every day, and for those who need more intensive care or have complications, there are 75 beds in 4 wards .
Of course that doesn't touch on the human side at all - but we certainly did so today, talking to patients undergoing treatment, like Kim McCallen from Lisburn who's on her second course of chemo, or young Michael O'Hare . He's just 19. He's a tri-athelete, and felt a bump on his head when he was swimming one day. It turned out to be a rare form of bone cancer; he had major surgery, replacing the top of his skull.
Countless sessions of radiotherapy, and nine courses of chemo later he's looking to finish treatment in May - and head off on holiday hopefully in June before resuming his university studies, which have been put on hold. Ironically, he wants to be a radiographer " at least I'll know what its like from both sides", he joked on the programme today, as he wandered round in his PJs, with a glucose drip running all the time.
Dr Seamus McAleer is Clinical Director for Oncology and Haematology - in his 25 years in the speciality he's seen huge changes - from 1000 new patients a year, to 6000 now coming in; changes too in survival rates - they've improved exponentially thanks to new and often expensive treatments coming on stream. But both he and Geoff Hill who's Co-Director for Cancer and Specialist Medicine in the Belfast Trust, emphasised the challenges posed by budgetary cuts - and underlined the detrimental effect those could have on the Centre -those points raised with the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey after 1 on the programme today.......
But listening to the Minister's answers, it seems they and the rest of us have some time to wait yet before finding out just how hard vital services like Cancer care here are likely to be hit.
If you missed Talkback today here's the link - believe me, its worth it...quite a humbling experience for us all, and we came away counting our blessings. https://bbc.in/hZ5wW3
Wendy in one of the wigs from Seamus Gallagher's Hair Affair (they work through Macmillan and the centre) talking to Marcus Hunter -Neill - the make-up man, who runs Look Good Feel Better NI
Producer Colette Maguire, and sound engineer Davy Neill with 19 year old bone cancer patient Michael O'Hare…complete with his drip!