WHEN Paisley man Billy Watt was diagnosed with cancer, his legs turned to jelly and he didn’t know what lay ahead.
But the dad-of-two was guided through the journey ahead of him with help from a project called ‘Living Well @ the Library with Macmillan Cancer Support,’ which gives cancer patients a chance to get advice from Macmillan nurses and support for other services in one of three Renfrewshire libraries.
Anyone diagnosed with cancer – as well as their friends and family – can pop into Ferguslie Park, Renfrew or Erskine library and get information about everything from benefits to treatments.
Billy, 62, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2008 after going to his GP for a routine check-up because he was suffering minor chest pains.
He explained: “The doctor asked me if there was anything else bothering me and I said I had been going to the toilet more than usual, so she told me to come back for a prostate check.
“This showed that I had a lump and I was sent to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, in Paisley, to see a urologist. I was sent for a biopsy and, within weeks, I was told I had a tumour.
“When they told me I had prostate cancer, I was floored. My legs were like jelly because hearing the word ‘cancer’ was a real shock.”
After a course of tablets and three years of monthly hormone injections to shrink the tumour, Billy is now on the road to better health.
In 2009, he also had five radiotherapy sessions weekly for eight weeks at The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, in Glasgow.
Billy’s advice to other men is simple.
He said: “If you have any doubts about your health, go to the doctor, especially if you are urinating more during the night or can’t hold your bladder.
“My doctor said I could have had that tumour for years but I am lucky because, generally, my health has been okay since the radiotherapy.”
Care worker Billy, who also has three grandchildren, was off work for 13 months throughout his treatment and described the Macmillan service as a “lifeline”.
He started going to the drop-in sessions at Renfrew Library to speak to Susanne Gray, who is a Macmillan nurse and project manager, and he said that the decision changed his life.
Billy, originally from Elderslie, added: “As soon as I went in, I didn’t feel worried. I felt emotional but I was at ease.
“Susanne brought out another side of me and my whole outlook has changed. I feel as though I have been given a second chance and I feel more in touch with everything.
“It is like a wee journey I am going through and Macmillan have helped me so much – they even helped me go to an arts class at Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church in Paisley.
“The library drop-in is very important to me and it has been a lifeline. Anyone who has been diagnosed and is finding things hard should go along.
“Going there and talking to people stabilised me and helped me get through everything I have been through.
“I’ve had support from my family and my partner but, at the library, they can give you advice about things like benefits, which is brilliant. Other organisations should take a leaf out of Macmillan’s book.”
At the drop-in sessions, you can simply have a chat and a cuppa with other patients, get advice on welfare issues from Advice Works and speak to a nurse or volunteer.
Susanne said: "This service is open to people affected by all types of cancer. It is also open to their friends and family as a cancer diagnosis affects not only those with the disease but their loved ones too.”
In 2005, Renfrew Library became the first in Scotland to offer the service and it is now also available at Ferguslie Park Library, in Paisley, and at Erskine Library.
The project is a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Renfrewshire Community Health Partnership and Renfrewshire Council.
To find out more about the service, telephone 0141 314 4409 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Sessions take place at Renfrew Library, 103 Paisley Road, Renfrew, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 1pm to 4pm; at Ferguslie Park Library, which is based at The Tannahill Centre, on Wednesdays, from 11am to 2pm; and at Erskine Library, in Bridgewater Place, on Mondays, from 11am to 2pm.