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Bogdan Chiva Giurca and Navin Nagesh raised funds for a project to help people with cancer share their personal inspirational stories.

Medicine students create inspiring book on Exeter cancer stories

Two Medicine students at the University of Exeter Medical School are behind an upcoming book that aims to empower people with cancer by sharing their inspirational stories.

Students Bogdan Chiva Giurca, 23, and Navin Nagesh, 25, raised funds for a project to help people with cancer share their personal inspirational stories. They came up with the idea of a book written by people with cancer to inspire others affected by the disease.

The two students enlisted support from the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and FORCE Cancer Charity, which provides support to people with cancer in Exeter and Devon.

They wanted to create a local network for cancer patients, to provide them with the means to interact, to share stories, to support each other morally and emotionally, and enable them to play an active role in the development of future patient resources such as leaflets and books.

Bogdan, who has been personally affected by cancer, said: “When I was 13, my mother got diagnosed with malignant melanoma. I still remember how scared my family and I were. She became estranged from us, and as much as we tried we still couldn’t understand what she was going through. As the time passed by, I realised that nobody could really understand what she was going through – not even clinicians – unless they have been through the same situation themselves.”

Bogdan was inspired by a lecture on using storytelling run by Professor Paul Dieppe at the University of Exeter Medical School. He approached FORCE and worked with them on focus groups to understand what cancer patients think about this idea.

Bogdan said: “We wanted to make this project based on real patient needs, not just assumptions. Following this first step, we met tens of cancer patients on an individual basis to listen and record their inspirational stories.

“We’re so grateful for all the help we have received and we would like to dedicate this project to everyone who has experienced cancer in Exeter, who has been fighting, and keep fighting each day – you are all amazing and your voice should be heard more often.”

To fund the project, the duo has organised educational presentations for Medical School applicants for charity, to give support and advice on getting into Medical School.

They have also planned a series of fundraising events celebrating patient experiences, where individuals can tell their stories to motivate others and network with those who may be sharing the same journey.

The upcoming book will incorporate patient stories and also artwork including poems, photos and drawings. They aim to start distribution locally, but may ultimately roll out nationally.

Meriel Fishwick, Chief Executive of the FORCE cancer charity, said: “It was impossible not to be infected by Bogdan’s enthusiasm and desire to see the project underway. Although we have quite limited staff resources available to support this proposal, the FORCE team wanted to get involved because they felt students really deserved our backing.

“In our opinion the project has the potential to have a very positive outcome for people affected by cancer. Bogdan and Navin have chosen to combine their academic work with patient engagement which has the potential for some exciting results.”

Doreen, a local cancer patient and Fundraiser from Devon, said: “For me, this has been like therapy. It gives me pleasure to show others that what they go through is normal. Thank you for contacting me, this is a wonderful initiative.”

Isabelle Hibell and Miriam Beattie, two first year medical students in the University of Exeter Medical School, helped the team uncover the inspirational stories by interviewing local cancer patients. They believe the project has not only helped the patients, but has also been a valuable experience for themselves.

Isabella said: “Being involved in this project has been an extremely rewarding experience for me. Hearing stories of such bravery and strength has inspired me and given me great stories of hope to pass on to patients I may encounter who are at the start of their fight to recovery.”

Miriam added: “Interviewing people for our project has been of huge value to me. I have gained a great insight into the vast effects the illness and treatment can have on immediate and future life, allowing me to be mindful and sensitive towards this in my future career.”

Date: 9 May 2017

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