A Macmillan chemotherapy unit built by the public’s generous donations is celebrating 10 years since it first opened its doors.
The Macmillan Chemotherapy Unit at Merthyr Tydfil’s Prince Charles Hospital first opened its doors on November 4 2010 after the local community raised an incredible £1m for Macmillan Cancer Support to build it.
The charity and the Welsh Government donated an additional £400,000 to make the unit a reality – meaning hundreds of people could have their chemotherapy closer to home rather than travelling to Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff.
Since opening its doors, more than 1,820 people have attended the unit.
The unit was opened by BBC TV presenter Sian Lloyd when it first opened its doors giving staff and patients a first look before treatments started.
Annmarie Bowen, from Abertysswg, was just 21 when she had chemotherapy at the unit for breast cancer months after it opened.
Mum-of-two Annmarie, now 31, said: “The Macmillan unit opened just a few months before my diagnosis. I am so very grateful that I was able to receive my treatment there, for a number of reasons.
“With all the shock and heartache of the diagnosis, having a long journey to travel to receive my chemotherapy would have been even more stressful, with added time to ponder and work myself up about the treatment, needles and everything else during the journey.
“With the journey being 10 minutes away, it didn’t give me chance to worry too much.
“It also meant that the journey home wasn’t so long either.
“After a vigorous chemotherapy session, I would be so worn out, so after a short journey, I could get home and into bed resting in the comfort of my own home.
“My mother would take me and sit with me while I received the treatment I needed. That way I didn’t feel so guilty that she would be out for hours and then needing the added pressure of driving longer as she felt the heartache too.”
Merthyr mum Suzanne Rees also had treatment at the unit when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 when she was 37.
She said: “The ability to have treatment locally was certainly a weight off my mind as cancer can have terrible financial implications.
“The unit provided free parking right outside the door too, a godsend when you are feeling weak from the accumulative effects of the treatment.
“Despite how ill a lot of the patients were the staff had made sure that the waiting room was a cheery place with free cups of tea and coffee always available and chocolates in abundance.
“Friends who accompanied me to appointments were amazed at how positive everyone was and how bright the unit was with beautifully tendered gardens surrounding it.
“Despite it being one of the lowest times of my life I remember the unit and the staff with fondness. But in the nicest possible way, I am in no hurry to return!”
Richard Pugh, Head of Partnerships at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We are so proud of the Macmillan Chemotherapy Unit at Prince Charles as it has made such a difference to people with cancer locally.
“The local community and fundraisers raised an incredible £1m towards this unit so it could open – with additional funds from Macmillan and the Welsh Government – and it would not have been possible without this fantastic support, including the Merthyr Macmillan fundraising committee.”
Nicola Williams, Executive Director of Nursing, Allied Health Professionals and Health Science at Velindre University NHS Trust, said: “It is clear that having this purpose built Macmillan Chemotherapy Unit on the Prince Charles Hospital site is making a real difference to patients living within the region as it considerably reduces their travelling time during a very difficult time of their lives.
“It allows Velindre Cancer Centre staff to continue providing the same excellent care and services they provide within Velindre Cancer Centre, but nearer to home.’
Alan Lawrie, executive director of operations at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, said: “The Macmillan Chemotherapy unit brought cancer care closer to patients in their own community, and the positive effect this has had on patients has been immeasurable.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the fantastic fundraising efforts by the local community who supported the building of this unit.
“The unit offers a quiet, comfortable and calming environment which has been supported by members of the Merthyr Rotary Club who have helped to maintain the unit’s garden.”
Colin Parker, a former president of the Rotary Club of Merthyr Tydfil, said: “Our members have been maintaining the unit’s garden for the past six years, and even with all the extensive construction work that has gone on during this time, the garden looks beautiful.
“We have kept the garden looking well-groomed, colourful and somewhere that people can sit and relax in peaceful surroundings.
“People who have attended the unit very often comment on how seeing the gardeners at work and the beauty of the garden has helped them through their course of treatment.”