NURSES and volunteers have been providing support and friendship to a forgotten group of cancer patients.

For people suffering upper gastrointestinal cancers, like those in the pancreas, stomach, oesophagus and liver, the nearest community café is in Oxford.

Now a team of Macmillan nurses and supporters have worked with the Great Western Hospital for the past year to form a new group much closer to home.

One of the people behind the scheme, Leona McNally, said: “These cancers are quite horrific and there was no support for them in this area. They get their treatment like chemotherapy but people might just need other people to talk to about it.

“The closest one is in Oxford which is quite far so we started one that is Swindon-based.”

Leona, who works with Macmillan nurses Sophie Woolford and Tracey O’Nions, and another volunteer Denise Croydon, said: “It hits really close to home because a volunteer’s husband was diagnosed with one of the GI cancers and he had to have a major operation at John Radcliffe Hospital and have chemotherapy.

“There’s a lot of support for breast cancer, rightly so, but these men and women who are suffering from these cancers - there was absolutely no support for them.”

Sessions allow patients and their families to discuss treatment, medical problems, worries and at the same time enjoy a chat over a coffee.

The group launched officially in January at the Shield and Dagger in Thames Avenue and managed three sessions before the coronavirus pandemic arrived. Since then the scheme has been put on hold.

Leona said: “Whenever the coronavirus situation is over we hope to continue and we will make it a monthly meeting.

“The group was gaining momentum because I think it helps people to feel normal again.”

But it has already enjoyed a little boost. Earlier in March, before the country went into lockdown because of the pandemic, a fundraising gig and raffle was organised with the help of musician Tayler McNally, bringing in more than £1,900.

Information on how to get involved and to join the group when it resumes will be released at a later date.