Press release posted 27 July 2023
A foster carer from Brooklands in Trafford, who has given a home to hundreds of young people, is now having cancer treatment in the comfort of his own armchair, thanks to an innovative service from The Christie.
Robert Dolan, age 72, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2021 after taking his dog for a walk and feeling pain in his foot. He got home and found the foot was bleeding, but he never imagined it might be cancer.
The father of 2, who served in the RAF and worked for Shell for 20 years, has been married to Irene for 39 years. They have 2 children each from previous marriages, and between them have 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The couple has also fostered hundreds of young people over more than 30 years.
Robert had surgery to remove the lump in February 2021, and when the biopsy showed he had melanoma, he was quickly referred to The Christie in March for further treatment. The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and his lungs.
The first immunotherapy drug he tried didn’t work, so he moved to a combination therapy with the immunotherapy drugs, Nivolumab and Ipilimumab. His initial treatments were all at The Christie’s Withington site.
“Because it is a specialist cancer hospital, they understand cancer, and everyone has so much empathy for you as a patient,” says Robert. “The staff and other patients smile and talk to you. It may sound strange to say it, but I have found it to be a very happy place with a family atmosphere.
“I was worried about what would happen to me, but the nurses and doctors took the time to talk to me and helped me deal with my worries. They were so kind and warm.
“When I moved to the combined treatment last year, the first 4 cycles were done at the Withington site. Then they told me about the ‘At Home’ team.
“Being treated at home feels more personalised. I’m in a familiar environment, and it is more relaxed. The chair I sit in at home is more comfortable than in hospital, and I can have the dogs around me distracting me. It’s like having someone put a warm blanket around you when you feel poorly. You feel in very safe hands.
“I also don’t have to worry about driving to Withington, finding somewhere to park, and then waiting for my treatment slot to be available. I can’t praise the ‘at home’ service enough.
“A nurse comes every 4 weeks to give me an infusion, and they are brilliant. They phone to say what time they are coming. As I’ve had 5 treatments, I think I might have met most of them now. They introduce themselves, make me a cup of tea and talk to me as they set everything up. They are very efficient, but it also feels relaxed, like an old friend dropping in to see me.
“As they treat me, they tell me what will happen next. And before they leave, they ensure I’m booked for my next blood test. When they go, I can get on with the rest of my life until the next lot of treatment.”
As well as walking his spaniel Meg, Robert has a Harley Davidson motorcycle and is very keen on motorsports. In the past, he played rugby regularly. Sadly, both of Robert’s parents died of cancer.
At Robert’s most recent PET scan, there had been no sign of disease progression in his lungs. This means his treatment team at The Christie can now go ahead and book him in for radiotherapy to his lymph nodes.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust is one of Europe’s most prominent cancer centres and has pioneered treatments at home since 2015. The Christie provides the most comprehensive range of drug treatments at home for cancer patients and treats more patients at home than any other cancer centre in the UK.
In 2017 to 18, The Christie at Home service provided 3,280 treatments in patients’ homes. This has risen to 7,867 treatments in the past 12 months. Since establishing The Christie at Home service in 2015, approximately 41,000 treatments have been provided for patients at home.
Deputy service manager Hollie Cowley said: “Patients tell us this this service makes an enormous difference to them, and many look forward to a visit from one of our friendly nurses. It takes away the stress of a long journey and parking and gives patients more free time to spend on things that are important to them such as friends, family and hobbies.”
The Christie at Home service currently provides 9 drugs for patients with various cancers, including lung, breast, melanoma, renal and urological cancers. Patients usually become eligible for treatment at home after 2 treatments in a healthcare setting unless they have had an adverse reaction to the therapy. The service hopes to further expand the drug treatments available in the future.
Christie at Home nurses complete a thorough patient assessment over the telephone, ensuring patients are well and their blood results are satisfactory before a homecare visit.
Each Christie at Home nurse can typically treat around 7 patients each day requiring an injection, or 4 to 5 patients if they need an intravenous treatment. There are 14 Christie at Home nurses, a senior nurse managing the service, and 2 support staff.