About Face - The wonderful Poole charity raising awareness for head and neck cancer
Pictured below: The charities' Operations Coordinator - Jane Boyle, Chair of Poole Rotary at the time - John Clement, and volunteers including Celia & David Hodges
18 November 2021
The coastal town of Poole, where our Renaissance Sandbanks Road community lies, is home to the charity About Face, a non-profit organisation that offers support to those diagnosed with head and neck cancer. It’s a charity that two of our homeowners have been involved in for years, both as volunteers and members.
We sat down with Celia Hodges, who moved to Renaissance Sandbanks Road in February this year with her husband David, both of whom have been involved with About Face since 2004 and introduced us to the charity.
“I first found out about About Face through my friend Sue who I’d known since I was at school in the 1950s. I’d heard through a mutual friend that she’d had cancer on her tongue and this charity was being set up for people who’d had head and neck cancer to get support and somebody to talk to. I wanted to help and asked if I could assist in any way. I hadn’t had cancer myself then but I said I could come along to the drop in sessions, make teas and coffees and listen.
“Then a few years later I noticed a patch on the side of my face and because I was associated with the charity I went to see Mr Ilankovan, the Poole Hospital consultant who had set up About Face. He told me he could see a suspicious spot on my lip which he didn’t like, something myself and my husband had never noticed. He found there was a little patch just at the top of my lip which was precancerous. He removed it and since then I’ve felt I have even more of a reason to be part of the charity, it felt right and I’ve stayed ever since.”
“I thought about how I can repay or do something to help out, which is why I now bake cakes to bring along to the Tuesday drop in sessions. I’ve told the other Renaissance homeowners about the charity and we’re having a Christmas Fair in a couple of weeks at the community. My husband and I are going to run an ‘About Face’ stall in one of the unoccupied apartments to raise money too.”
Jane Boyle, About Face’s Operation Coordinator, works on raising awareness for the charity. We sat down with her to talk about the importance of the work they do.
“There is a lot of support out there for cancer patients generally, but head and neck cancers are quite a particular type of cancer in that they can be quite disfiguring and can lead to terrible problems with people swallowing, talking, eating and drinking as quite often it's in the mouth. Lots of patients can feel isolated because it can be really debilitating.
“About Face is a support network for people. I always say we offer friendship as much as anything else and we have a councillor who supports patients through their treatment. We can’t offer any clinical advice but we bring people together. In 2009 we had a big fundraising campaign which resulted in the charity buying the house opposite Poole Hospital where we are now. It was set up as a special place to go; people that were awaiting appointments could visit us and get support from other people.
“We have a technical room upstairs in the home, created for trainee head and neck cancer surgeons to practise their surgical skills while away from the hospital. The room has a state of the art surgical microscope which is connected to a tv screen in the adjacent meeting room for trainees to observe procedures.
“In late 2019, About Face was delighted to donate £60,000 to Poole Hospital to help equip the new head and neck outpatients department with some state of the art equipment, including cameras, lasers and specialist treatment chairs, allowing more patients to be treated as day case patients. We also purchased the Three dimensional Planner for the Prosthetics Department at the hospital which works closely with the reconstructive surgeons to help reconstruct patients’ faces after surgery.”