Nicole, 58, lives in Gravelly Hill with her husband. Nicole has had cancer four times so has a compromised immune system. When Covid hit in March 2020, Nicole was forced to shield and was placed on the City Council’s ‘vulnerable’ list. Her and her husband haven’t been able to go to the shops to buy food, or see their family, since the pandemic begun.
As part of our Telephone Befriending service (now Listen and Connect), which was launched in March 2020 in response to Covid, we contacted many vulnerable people in Birmingham, including Nicole.
When we first spoke to Nicole, she wasn’t sure she wanted support from the service. We contacted her again the following week anyway and in the end we supported Nicole from April 2020 to February 2021 and arranged food parcels for her. There was never any pressure for Nicole to answer if she didn’t want to.
“She phoned every week. Even if she phoned and I didn’t answer, she’d leave a voicemail or a text saying she’d call back next week. She always phoned.
It was good because if you didn’t want to answer the call, you didn’t answer the call. If you didn’t feel like talking that day. It was supportive.”
In the summer, Nicole found out she had a different type of cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant. She was told there was a 90% chance that treatment would work. It left her feeling like she didn’t want to speak to anyone as she kept getting bad news. We continued to call Nicole each week and she found it helpful to speak to someone she didn’t know about how she was feeling.
“It was nice to talk to someone I didn’t know, I could just say how I was feeling. With Alicja, I could talk to her and she doesn’t know me and I don’t know her. It is easier to let different feelings out.”
The phone calls also gave Nicole the chance to have a sense of normality, too.
“We didn’t just talk about me, we talked about the weekend, shopping, the park… We talked about normal things too. It was normal chit-chat.”
Nicole was able to get a bone marrow transplant at the start of this year and has just been told she is in remission with cancer. She is already starting to feel better. Nicole says she no longer needs support from Listen and Connect as she has had her treatment, but that the support she received “kept me going”.