A specially trained pharmacist is offering a free one-to-one information service for people whose lives have been touched by cancer.
Sian Barber, who works at Boots at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham, is urging more people to take advantage of the service
As part of its special partnership with Macmillan, the chemist now has a network of Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists who have undergone special training to provide free expert advice to those personally affected by cancer or are caring for someone who is.
Sian, 29, said: “The pharmacists who have had special training like myself are on hand in a number of Boots branches, including Eagles Meadow, to answer questions from cancer patients or their carers and, if necessary, signpost them to other support services available locally and nationally through Macmillan.
“As this is a relatively new service it could take some time for word to get around that we have it available at the Eagles Meadow branch. However, I’d like send out the strong message that I’m here and ready to help.”
Sian, who lives in Chester but is originally from Prestatyn, spent four years obtaining her Masters in Pharmacy degree at Cardiff University followed by a year of frontline training in the pharmacy department at boots in the city.
After passing her final exams in 2008, she worked at various branches of Boots in South Wales, including Newport where she spent three and a half years. She arrived at Eagles Meadow last February.
She added: “About two years ago I began the special training to become a Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist, which was based on distance learning.
“Although I had learned about cancer and its affects as part of my general training, the Macmillan course was about refreshing that knowledge and learning about the very latest cancer treatments and their possible side-effects.
“We also learned about how to support people suffering from cancer and their carers.
“When people are first diagnosed they get quite a lot of support but once their treatment is finished some patients don’t always receive the same level of support.
“For instance, with cancer there are often what the medical professionals call `late effects’, which are side-effects which can last for quite some time after the treatment is finished.
“These can include things like fatigue and even pain which can go on longer than people expect.
“One of the most important things with the advice that I’m able to give is that these side-effects are nothing unusual and I can provide assurance to people that this is the case.
“It’s basically all about being there to provide a sympathetic ear – listening to people’s problems, then trying to help them.
“Of course, I am not able to prescribe any medication but if this seems to be necessary I can refer them back to their doctor or a Macmillan Nurse.
“It’s very much about emotional support, as patients and carers just want someone to talk to about their illness. However, I’m also able to point people in the right direction if they are looking for financial advice related to their cancer.
“I can give advice at the pharmacy counter but, if people prefer more privacy, there is a consulting room available in which I can speak to them.”
Sian stressed: “I’d definitely like to see more people – those newly diagnosed with cancer or some time ago and also their carers – taking advantage of what really can be a very useful free service that we are now offering.
“It’s available on all seven days a week that the branch is open and if I’m not on duty, my pharmacist colleague, Bethan Crewe, can also help.”
Sian’s specialist advice is part of a general Macmillan caring “package” offered by Boots at Eagles Meadow.
Her colleagues on the nearby No.7 counter, Ceri Evans and Emma Nadin, have both received similar training from Macmillan on how to offer help and advice to cancer patients, which might include tips on how to cope with facial hair loss or dry skin caused by treatments such as chemotherapy.
They recently ran a highly successful fundraising day at the branch offering customers free make-overs in return for a donation to Macmillan.