When Jan was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer in August 2022, she didn’t know where to turn.

Despite receiving fantastic support from husband John, she felt she needed other people to talk to – and found exactly what she was looking for at the Cancer Wellbeing and Information Centre at Colchester Hospital.

The 72-year-old now regularly drops in for a cuppa and chat, and has also benefitted from reflexology, meditation, Reiki and yoga sessions. She describes the support she has received from staff as “invaluable” and has quickly become a passionate advocate for the services they provide.

“I was in a terrible state when I was first diagnosed,” said Jan, who lives in Colchester and has been married to John for 52 years. “My husband got me through that first week, but I still felt isolated as I don’t have many friends or family locally who I could talk to.

“When I found out about the centre I went straight there. The lovely ladies were a listening ear and offered me somewhere to go and chill out if I felt anxious before an appointment. It has since become my go-to place – I look at it as my sanctuary and safe haven.”

Jan has a type of cancer called polycythemia vera, which makes her more susceptible to blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. Although it is incurable, it can be treated, with Jan currently receiving medication and taking regular blood tests.

She added: “I do get tired but try to have a positive attitude. We still enjoy regular holidays and I walk my dogs, redecorate at home and do the gardening. I feel I need to try and get on with my life.

“The centre has been an important part of that and has made a really big difference to me. Everyone is so friendly and there’s such a welcoming atmosphere – it’s a good community and I find it relaxing to talk to so many different people.

“The complementary therapies I’ve had have also left me feeling much better and so refreshed. It’s like I’m floating on air and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to try them.

“The centre has helped me both mentally and physically – mentally through knowing that people care and are listening, and physically through the treatments and exercise I’ve been offered. Both help to bring some respite when you are dealing with powerful emotions.”

To say thank you for the support she has received, Jan is now backing Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity’s appeal to raise funds for the centre. Every penny will be used to continue providing vital services in years to come.

“This appeal is so important as most people know someone who has been impacted by cancer,” she added. “The centre offers the chance to talk and is a sanctuary for people who might feel that all is lost. The staff really understand how you are feeling and make you feel incredibly welcome, which in itself is a huge comfort at a difficult time.”