The charity that would become Cherry Lodge Cancer Care was set up in 1987 by a group of health care professionals and others with personal experience of cancer. Under the name of Barnet Cancer Care, it set out to further the work of a pioneering symptom control team for cancer patients at Barnet General Hospital. Money was raised in the community and in 1988 Macmillan Cancer Support become formally involved.
In 1996 a Portakabin in the grounds of Barnet Hospital was made available. This temporary building – called Cherry Lodge – was to be developed into a Centre offering information and support to people throughout their cancer journey, and also to their carers, family and friends. Nursing and administrative staff were recruited, and were joined by the first volunteers.
The Centre was formally opened, by local MP Sir Sydney Chapman, on 13th May 1998 and by the end of the following year there were 350 Members (service users) taking advantage of a range of support that included the library and information service, nurse support, drop-ins, complementary therapies, group activities, seminars and workshops.
In the year 2000 the name of the charity was changed to Cherry Lodge Cancer Care, to reflect the fact that our impact extended well beyond the boundaries of the Borough of Barnet. Activity at the Centre gradually increased, and by 2003 we had 1,000 Members. The range of services was expanded, with the addition of Befriending (Home Visiting) and an Outreach Nursing Information Service, both supported and encouraged by Macmillan Cancer Support.
On 13th December 2004 we left the old Cherry Lodge Portakabin and moved into our current premises, initially as tenants. The spirit of Cherry Lodge lived on and flourished in our new Centre. On 16th February 2009, thanks to a legacy from Beryl and Kirk Howard, we were able to buy the property. This gave us added security and in 2011 allowed us to undertake a first programme of building work to make the premises better suited to our needs. Further work on the building was carried out in 2016, using money from a legacy from Linda Bagaini, who was a Cherry Lodge therapist for many years.
At the end of 2019, there were more than 2,000 Members on our database, including 161 new Members enrolled during the year. An average of 150 to 200 people accessed the Centre every week. The Tuesday morning drop-in attracted 20-30 Members each week and the twice-monthly Thursday evening drop-in had 10-15 attendees. During 2019, there were 2,579 booked therapy appointments and 989 attendances at drop-ins, where therapies were also available. Our Outreach Service, at venues across the borough, was accessed by 1,044 people, including 101 carers. In addition to the Members, our database included some 1,500 supporters, both corporate and individual.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 and 2021 were years like no other, with access to the Centre limited and various regular services suspended or modified. Despite many challenges, Cherry Lodge Cancer Care was able to provide vital information and support services throughout by telephone and Zoom, to existing Members and people who contacted us for the first time. 2021 and 2022 saw a gradual opening up of the Centre and the return of some ‘in-person’ services alongside the ongoing provision of services via telephone and Zoom. This pattern continues in 2023. Service statistics for 2022 will be published in the Annual Report; during 2022, some 202 new Members were seen by our nurses, a total of 1,543 therapies (including acupuncture, counselling and hypnotherapy) were given at the Centre, more than 580 people were seen at outreach venues, and there were 120 attendances at the online Carers’ Support Group.
From a small beginning as Barnet Cancer Care, Cherry Lodge has grown into a very important source of information and support, still centred on Barnet but also covering much of North London, South Hertfordshire and beyond.