Sir Bobby was one of thousands of patients to benefit from receiving complementary therapy during his cancer treatment at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC), Freeman Hospital, Newcastle.
Sir Bobby receiving reflexology from Angela Jackson in the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre
Designed to be used alongside standard medical treatments, the team of qualified complementary therapists use gentle touch and relaxation techniques to help patients cope with the stress caused by cancer, helping to reduce anxiety and sleeping difficulties, and provide emotional support and relief from pain.
They have been working with patients at the NCCC for 14 years and rely completely on charitable support. When the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation launched in 2008, helping fund the complementary therapy service was one of the first grants made and that support has continued every year since.
In total, over the last 10 years, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has contributed £136,000 to help fund the team, who have treated around 22,000 patients in that time.
Shola Ameobi receiving reflexology from Angela Jackson in the new Complementary Therapy Suite
Now, along with the Complementary Therapy Fund and Ward 33 Charitable Fund (like the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, both funds within the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity) and in partnership with the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Trust, the Foundation has contributed to the creation of a dedicated Complementary Therapy Suite.
Just off the corridor leading to the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the NCCC, the new Complementary Therapy Suite is a space within the hospital that allows patients to ‘escape’ the normal medical environment.
The Complementary Therapy Suite has been created from a former office and the colours, materials and design details are inspired by nature to create a relaxing environment, which deliberately removed from a typical cancer treatment room.
Angela Jackson, Complementary Therapy Team Lead, was the driving force behind creation of the new suite.
Angela says: “This has been a labour of love for me and I’m so happy that the suite is complete.
“Obviously, everything has to meet the same clinical standards as the rest of the hospital but it was so important that this space feel different from a normal treatment room.
The official opening of the new Complementary Therapy Suite
“Hearing patients say they forget they’re in the hospital when they’re in here is music to our ears. That’s just what we wanted to achieve.
“The therapy couch is very special and is fully adjustable, so we can help provide physical support where needed and help relieve pressure points. That’s vital because some patients are very poorly.
“We offer a range of techniques so we can find what’s best for the individual patient. That’s very important, especially because many haven’t had this kind of therapy before.”
Angela and her team achieve calming responses by using techniques including aromatherapy, reflexology, Indian head massage, gentle touch (a form of reiki), supportive listening and gentle hand, foot and shoulder massage.
Angela adds: “It’s important we can continue to take our service out to the wards and units where it’s needed, but this new suite gives us a new option for patients. It gives us the chance to take them away from a medical environment, even for just a short while, and that can be hugely beneficial.”
Angela Jackson with Tommy Moralee from Alnwick
Tommy Moralee, 78 from Alnwick, is a retired fuel sales rep and was first diagnosed with prostate cancer 11 years ago. He’s tried various types of complementary therapy during his recent cancer treatment.
Tommy, who is married with a son and a daughter, says: “My daughter, Clare, first mentioned the service to me. I don’t think it’s something I’d have thought of doing on my own to be honest.
“I have it about once a month and it sets me up for my chemo. It’s relaxing and calming and the reflexology in particular has been very helpful. I’ve been finding walking difficult lately and it really does make things easier for me.
“Chemo can be daunting and you can get apprehensive ahead of it. Now I have the complementary therapy and it just unwinds you and relaxes your mind. I feel a lot happier and better after the complementary therapy. I can’t praise it enough.
Robert Allen, 39 from Washington, is currently receiving treatment for AML leukaemia. After his recovery, the former non-destructive test technician plans to retrain as a computer graphics artist.
Angela Jackson with Robert Allen from Washington
Robert, who is married to Kimberley, says: “I’ve had two bone marrow transplants. One when I was first diagnosed in 2013 and again this year, and I wish I’d known about the complementary therapy service from the start.
“When the leukaemia reoccurred this year, my doctor recommended the service to help with the migraines and neck pain I was experiencing.
“The back and shoulder massages have really helped and Angela makes you feel really comfortable and at ease. It’s very relaxing and takes you away from everyday stresses of chemo and treatment.”
Shola, who played under Sir Bobby at Newcastle United, says: “This morning’s brought back so many memories of Sir Bobby. Seeing his picture up around the hospital and talking about him. It’s made me really think about the legacy he’s left us through his Foundation, which means so much to so many people.
“I had some foot massage today, which I know is something Sir Bobby had when he was receiving treatment for cancer. And I can understand why he enjoyed it so much because it was incredibly relaxing.
Tommy Moralee, Shola Ameobi, Robert and Kimberley Allen and Lady Elsie
“Sir Bobby was all about people and making sure they were cared for. As a player I felt that as a teenager coming into the senior team. And that’s what today has been about. Going the extra mile for patients. So, making sure they have the cutting-edge cancer treatment but also this extra support, which is helping ensure that whole feeling of well-being – mind, body and soul.
“Knowing Sir Bobby as well as I did, I know that he’d see all this as bigger than everything he achieved in football as a player and manager. It’s great that his legacy lives on through this charity and its work and, for me, there’s no greater pleasure than to come and support it.”
Dame Jackie Daniel, chief executive, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, says: “We’re proud that our Northern Centre for Cancer Care is able to offer leading edge cancer treatments for patients here in the North East and North Cumbria thanks to our incredible fundraising supporters. And the complementary therapy service is an important ingredient to providing fully holistic care.
“To be able to offer patients therapeutic care such as massages, aromatherapy and other relaxation techniques whilst they are still in hospital is just wonderful, and I’m delighted our charitable funds and other partners have made it possible for our patients and staff to have their very own tranquil space.”
The total cost of the Complementary Therapy Suite is £8,401. With a grant of £4,222, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation funded the equipment and furniture for the new suite, including the electronic treatment bed and dual motor recliner chair, and the Complementary Therapy Fund (£6,000) and Ward 33 Charitable Fund (£2,401) provided the remaining funding.
Since 2013, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has proudly provided 50% of the funding for the complementary therapy team at the NCCC, with 25% each coming from Charlie Bear for Cancer Care Fund and Bright Red.