World's Biggest Coffee Morning: why you should celebrate Macmillan Coffee Morning at East Surrey Hospital

Help raise money for a remarkable cause at the Macmillan Coffee Morning at East Surrey Hospital

Help raise money for a remarkable cause at the Macmillan Coffee Morning at East Surrey Hospital - Credit: Macmillan

The Macmillan Coffee Morning is a lovely time to catch up with friends, sample some delicious treats, and raise awareness and money for a wonderful cause. But beyond the day of sweet treats lies a sweet team of people that work year on round to look after patients and give them the care they need…

This year, the East Surrey Macmillan Support Centre is teaming up with the Hospital Haematology department to put on a big coffee morning that all are welcome to attend between 10am and 2pm on September 24. The departments, which work closely together to help support patients in both the physical and emotional aspects of their cancer journey, thought it would be nice to share the coffee and cake together. 

Haematology matron Alison Costain explains: ‘We look after patients with blood cancer, lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma, and see them through their diagnosis, their treatment, through to living with it, survivorship and end of life care. We’re based in the hospital, so we have inpatients and outpatients.’ She continues: ‘After a devastating diagnosis of blood cancer, we’re able to support patients with the help of Macmillan. The team produces leaflets to help patients better understand what’s happening. Macmillan has also provided funding for a new nurse in the department.

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One of the highlights of working at the hospital for Alison is the wide variety of people she’s able to meet and helping them and their loved ones through the pathway. ‘I was with a young man when he was diagnosed - he came in on his own and I was the only one with him, and when his mum called my office he said, "Well, there’s good news and the bad news – the bad news is that I’ve got blood cancer but the good news is that there’s a lovely lady here who can talk you through it,"' Alison tells me. 

Enter your cake into the decorating competition at the East Surrey Hospital Macmillan Coffee Morning

Enter your cake into the decorating competition at the East Surrey Hospital Macmillan Coffee Morning - Credit: Macmillan

The way that people cope with their diagnosis and treatment varies – some people turn to humour, while others turn to style. ‘I worked with a lady who used to work in London, who went to Selfridges to buy herself a wig, and she came out with two completely different ones – a black short bob and an extremely long blonde wig,’ Alison explains. ‘She would wear whichever one took her fancy in the morning as a way of coping with her hair loss, which at the time was absolutely devastating. But she turned it into something that helps her.’

Sue Munn, Macmillan Cancer Support Centre manager, agrees with Alison that working within the department is a rewarding job. ‘People arrive in the Macmillan Centre in shock, with their world having just fallen apart, and we provide that listening ear that’s also active listening,’ Sue explains. ‘You're working out what might help them, what the best support might be, and letting them know that they can reach out to us at any time and have a cuppa and a chat. It’s just so rewarding to see that person leave in a much better place than when they arrived.’ 

The Macmillan garden at East Surrey provides respite from the hospital ward 

The Macmillan garden at East Surrey provides respite from the hospital ward - Credit: East Surrey Macmillan

One particularly lovely part of the support care at East Surrey is the Macmillan garden, maintained by volunteers. ‘It’s a therapeutic space, and it does get very well utilised in good weather, with patients feeling the benefit of sitting outside and having a break from the ward scenery’ Sue says. ‘There was one husband that commented to me one time that his wife was the most lucid ever after spending some time in the garden.’

Providing this level of thoughtful, personal support is something that’s really important to the centre. Sue explains how they’ve adapted through the pandemic to be able to still help people throughout: ‘It's been a tough time throughout the pandemic, I kept the centre open, then some of the Support Centre volunteers were able to return just before Christmas, which was fantastic. The therapists were incredible, providing online therapies and advice throughout the pandemic.

'Counselling has already returned, as has life coaching, pilates and the art group. The next phase will be for the return of face-to-face treatments, like massages, reflexology and acupuncture. It’s a gradual return because everything has to be done safely, but I don't know what we would have done without the dedicated support of our wonderful volunteers.’

The work the Macmillan centre doe has been praised by plenty of patients - Sue shares with me feedback from a recent client: 'It was wonderful to see so many people getting advice and support from you in the Centre this morning. You are serving as a source of so much vital support for people suffering the emotional, physical and financial consequences of receiving a cancer diagnosis. This is just as important as the medical care which people are receiving in order to assist in their recovery, or at least in helping them to live with their condition.'

READ MORE: 10 things to do in Surrey this September

In terms of the coffee morning, visitors can expect a warm welcome from the hospital, with a variety of fun activities planned for the day. ‘There’s a competition for the most artistic cake, a raffle with prizes and of course lots of people to chat to over a treat and a drink,’ Sue says. ‘Fundraising is so essential for the work we do – the money goes towards supporting anybody affected by cancer.'

Charities have been so hard hit during the pandemic and showing your support for causes such as Macmillan that hugely help the community is especially important. And being able to do that all while eating scrumptious cake and having a lovely chat… Who could say no to that?

The Macmillan Coffee Morning at East Surrey Hospital is taking place on September 24 between 10am and 2pm. For more information about the Coffee Morning visit