A new cancer support programme for men has been launched in Suffolk to help keep male cancer patients active throughout their cancer journey.

Abbeycroft Leisure, working with the Macmillan team at West Suffolk Hospital has launched the free 12-week programme at their leisure facilities in Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury.

Following a referral from the Macmillan team – patients are offered access to the programme at Abbeycroft which includes a weekly, body-weight circuit based, gentle exercise class, which is designed to be safe and suitable for anyone who is living with cancer.

Matt Hickey, health and wellbeing manager at Abbeycroft said:

“It’s been a pleasure working with the Macmillan team to bring this programme together, which is a welcome addition to our Active Living referral service.”
“Our dedicated, level 4 cancer rehab instructors develop exercises which help build strength and mobility but at the same time are safe and suitable for all levels of fitness.”
“And with it being an all male class, the peer to peer support is very beneficial to their mental wellbeing as well.”

Nicky McKee, manager of the Macmillan Information and Support Centre at the West Suffolk Hospital said,

“We are so pleased that these classes are under way and it’s so good to know that our patients are really enjoying it. It’s a very useful addition to the services for men with cancer or during their recovery.

“Our female patients have always come along to classes such as Pilates, but male patients were less keen. This was a real unmet need, and now we can offer male patients a place to get together with a male trainer, work on their fitness and wellbeing and support one another.”

Colin Jordan, aged 75 started on the programme, following removal of his kidney in September 2021 due to cancer. Colin said:

“I used to be more active before I had cancer and I’m having to get used to living with one kidney. So when Fran from the navigator group told me about the new course at Bury Leisure Centre I was very interested.”

“I’m enjoying the classes because they challenge me in a good way and I feel as though I’ve used my muscles afterwards. I’d like to become stronger and more mobile again so that I can get back to gardening and bee-keeping and the things I used to enjoy and I want to make the best of every day.”

Funding for the programme came from the third phase of the Sport England Tackling Inequalities Fund (now known at the Together Fund) which was distributed by the team at Active Suffolk.

Laura Spooner, Senior Development Officer (Health & Wellbeing) at Active Suffolk said:

Active Suffolk is proud to have played a role in supporting the launch of the project, and we are pleased the sessions have been well received in meeting the physical and mental needs of individuals and expanding the offer currently available to support male patient’s wellbeing.

The West Suffolk Hospital and Abbeycroft programme is a fantastic example of the impact that partnership working between the health and leisure sector can have on providing opportunities for people to be physical active to help improve their health and wellbeing.“

Staff at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust already work closely with Abbeycroft, referring suitable patients to a free physical activity pathway, working with qualified exercise instructors, including specialists in cancer, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. The service is available at Abbeycroft’s Mildenhall, Brandon, Sudbury, Haverhill and Newmarket leisure centres.

In addition, the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust runs a joint promotion offering all its staff free membership at Abbeycroft centres, as part of its commitment to supporting their wellbeing.

To find out more about the new cancer support programme contact the Macmillan Information and Support Centre at the West Suffolk Hospital T. 01284 713023 or cancer.infocentre@wsh.nhs.uk. or contact Abbeycroft Leisure via their Active Living section here.


[Photo above L-R: Colin Jordan – participant, Louise Steggall – Macmillan Information and Support Centre, David Williams – participant, Matt Hickey, Ronnie Farmer – Abbeycroft, Nicky McKee, Gus Kepel – participant.]