North London social worker and tour guide urges fellow cancer patients to seek online support


North London social worker Tina Hodgkinson, aged 52 who was diagnosed with womb cancer in 2019, is encouraging people who’ve been treated for cancer at University College Hospital (UCH) Macmillan Cancer Centre to sign up to the health and wellbeing workshops which helped her so much in her recovery.

Tina who is also a part-time City or London and Westminster tour guide is grateful for the support she received from the UCH Macmillan Support and Information Service, which this month (April) is proud to mark nine years of service supporting people being treated for cancer at the hospital, as well as their friends, family and carers.

She says:

“They were there at the right time, just when I needed them. They just anticipated our needs and had thought of everything.”

The purpose-built centre located on the ground floor of the University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre provides practical, emotional and financial support for people affected by cancer in a non-clinical setting, right from the point of diagnosis, throughout their treatment and beyond.

Tina works in a supporting role herself as a social worker at the London Metropolitan Archives. She counsels people who have been adopted, fostered or are in care.

In non-Covid times, Tina is also a private London tour guide and award-winning ambassador for Euan’s Guide, advising people on disabled access to public places and attractions. She was completely taken by surprise when she was diagnosed with womb cancer and had to undergo a radical hysterectomy.

Tina adds:

“When you are diagnosed with cancer there is no manual or checklist to follow. Your life just changes overnight.

“The health and wellbeing workshop really helped me after I had my surgery.

“It may sound irrational, but people think when you’ve had the all clear, you can celebrate and go back to your life, but it is just the start, particularly for your emotional fears, like going back to work or wondering whether the cancer will come back.”

“I received such brilliant practical advice on subjects like managing fatigue, sleep, and relaxation. They weren’t preachy either which I appreciated, and they didn’t make judgements. They encouraged us just to make small changes and nudged us in the right direction in terms of healthy eating and exercise. They also made me feel that I was not alone as I was with other people who had had a similar experience and felt the same. It was a safe space to share my worries. I would encourage anyone else in my situation to apply for the workshop.”

Catrina Davy, Macmillan Cancer Information Specialist at UCH says:

“The centre is still open for people on the days they have an appointment in the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre, but we have had to make a number of adjustments to the service over the last 12 months due to the Covid crisis to keep people safe. Many of our services are now available online, over the phone or via video link including the health and wellbeing workshops, welfare and benefits advice, psychological support and complementary therapies. We’ve held over 12,000 appointments to support people living with cancer since the start of the pandemic and would like to encourage anyone being treated for cancer at the hospital to get in touch.”