Cheryl and CAM CAN


For a long time I was physically and emotionally stuck. I spent endless hours waiting for my personal carer to arrive, checking my watch every five minutes, starting at least an hour before she was due. My daily morning shower became a major event. As soon as the carer left I’d start the wait for my neighbour’s 13-year-old son, who
fixed my evening meals after he’d finished school. The space between the two activities seemed infinitely long.

At my lowest I couldn’t find a single reason to get out of bed, and my thoughts were irrational: my daughter would’ve been better off born to someone else; if only I could get a good grip on the kitchen knife I’d slit my
wrists; if I was dead it wouldn’t make a ripple
of difference to anyone …

My depression was made worse by the lack of opportunity to get out and about. The furthest I could go under my own steam was my front yard – but I wouldn’t venture
out until evening when I knew there’d be fewer people around; ridiculous, when I was yearning for company, yet the ‘outside world’ scared me.

For me meeting Marc and Anthea Lema and receiving support through Cam Can opened doors, where I reached out to grasp the handle with a mixture of apprehension and
excitement, not knowing what was on the other side. When I opened them I started an adventure, made contact with new people and places, and enriched my life. It reawakened dreams, and helped give me the confidence and enthusiasm that now flows through my days.

When I first met Anthea, she said, ‘You’re the one in the driver’s seat. You tell us what you want us to do.’ Now my days are full of activity and spontaneity. Some of my
support is for tasks like personal care or meal preparation, but at other times I can do whatever I choose. Will I go out for a coffee? Take the dog for a walk or to the groomers? Visit my family? Attend my regular writing
group? In my ‘previous’ life it had been a rare thing to have such choices …

Now that I’m more positive I’m more active when I’m alone as well – I dictate my thoughts onto my iPad using Siri, a voice recognition program, then email it to one of my carers for printing … I put the laundry in the washing machine and turn it on … I set up my clean clothes for the next day … I book my own taxis. These sometimes take me a long time, but they’re all things I used to leave for
someone else to do. Now I want to do them
for myself …

It’s not all been smooth … Cam Can needed to find suitable carers to work with me, people who had the right skills and temperament, and they could only work within the available funding – which, for me, still goes up and down.

I get to meet people before they work with me – we get to know each other a bit and they find out how I like things done – it’s a partnership where I’m given the space to express opinions. And everything that’s set up has the flexibility to be changed, depending on how I’m feeling on the day, or things like availability of transport.

Cam Can have encouraged me to build relationships with support staff, and that makes life easier for all of us. I’d never had this with other agencies, where it seemed carers were expected to ‘keep their distance’. I often have people in my personal space so First I had to do an induction with my carer Chrissy as she was the one who would be
supporting me to achieve being a part of the k9 animal rescue centre team. I am supported to do various jobs such as chop up dog food, wash their bedding, hang
the washing out, pack the clean washing away and some times have one of the dogs out it’s important for me to trust them, and to know that anything I tell them in confidence remains in confidence.

Suggestions I make to Cam Can are not considered ridiculous or out of reach, and they’re implemented if at all possible. But if anything truly can’t be done, they tell me why – I’m treated with dignity and respect. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ formula with Cam Can – nothing is set up for me on the basis that ‘it worked for someone else so it will work for you’. Things that are set up for Cheryl are specifically for … Cheryl.

Going to my weekly writing group has given me a real confidence boost. This year I have had six pieces of poetry and prose published in the group’s annual anthology, and now I’m writing a series of stories – memoirs – that I
hope will also be published one day.

Thank you, Cam Can!cheryl