Macmillan brings cancer support to the heart of the Turkish-speaking community in Hackney


Macmillan Cancer Support has joined forces with the Turkish Cypriot Cultural Association (TCCA) to help raise awareness of local cancer support services and discuss the issues facing people in the Turkish-speaking community living with cancer.

The aim of the event was to gain feedback from people living with cancer in the Turkish-speaking community and to establish where their needs lie. Due to Covid-19 restrictions this event, the first of its kind, was held online but the organisers are hoping that future events will be held in person as lockdown eases.

Gülnur Salih, coordinator at the TCCA and one of the key organisers said:

“We are so pleased to be working with Macmillan to bring the cancer support they offer right to the heart of our community. The event was held entirely in Turkish and aimed to breakdown some of the taboos associated with cancer which often prevent people from getting the support they need. We want to show those living with cancer that there is no need to be frightened and that they are not alone. There are people within the community who can help them and have gone through the same thing. We want to try and destigmatise some of the feelings associated with cancer.”

Kaz Foncette, founder of Wigs for Heroes

Kaz Foncette, founder of Wigs for Heroes was one of the speakers the event. Kaz is a former cancer patient and of Turkish Cypriot heritage, so she was able to share her first-hand experience of living with cancer and how she dealt with her diagnosis and treatment. Kaz said:

“Losing my hair and dealing with the changes to my looks was a massive challenge for me as I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged only 31. My family and friends were really supportive, but I soon realised that many of the people attending chemo with me did not have that support, be it emotional or financial. So, I started Wigs for Heroes, a charity that issues wig grants for people who are struggling financially, pamper packs every week to the chemo day unit at North Middlesex Hospital for new patients and hosts fortnightly Coffee Clubs online (as well as an active Instagram account) to support people going through cancer treatment. Helping people restore their confidence and help them navigate through chemo related hair loss.

“The Turkish community have been incredibly supportive, and many local businesses continue to provide freebies every month for my pamper packs including sweet treats, lip balms and puzzle books. Macmillan were really there too for me during my treatment and my Macmillan nurse, who is now retired, facilitates our online Coffee Clubs answering some of the more clinical questions people have. Macmillan have also funded some of our Coffee Club Boxes which accompany our meetings through their support grants.”

Lee Townsend, Macmillan Engagement Lead in London and fellow event organiser said:

“It was great to meet people living with cancer from the Turkish Community and communicate with them in their own language as my talk to them, about the support available to them from Macmillan, was expertly translated into Turkish by Papatya Alkan-Genca, even the jokes! Dr Mekella Green, Public Health official and former bowel cancer ambassador was also on hand to discuss the importance of screening and getting symptoms checked by your GP. This is just one example of how at Macmillan we aim to do whatever it takes to reach everyone living with cancer who needs our support and I look forward to building this relationship as we develop our London Cancer Community in the capital to listen to and tackle the needs of our diverse population.”

If you have questions about cancer, need support or just someone to talk to, call 0808 808 00 00 – an interpreter service is available on request, if required – or visit .

Macmillan Cancer Support Centres can be found at most major London Hospitals including the Homerton Hospital in Hackney, if you would like to speak to someone face to face. For your nearest centre visit: .

To attend the next Concerning Cancer event in association with the TCCA email or text 07946 344667.