I have now been volunteering at the Royal Marsden Chelsea for just over a year and still loving it. By that I mean, I enjoy it as it is my way of saying thank you and giving back. Some of the volunteers have been helping for over 15 years, so I hope I can commit for a few more years.
I think I have done most of the roles that a volunteer can do here, but still like Meet & Greet the best. Working alongside Karen who is the receptionist, we assist patients to make their Marsden experience stress free and to give them peace of mind that they are in a safe environment and you will hear ‘its home from home’. More recently I have been doing reception on a Wednesday and Friday and have been happy to help. Then, on a Thursday you can find me in Outpatients as the water monitor. Occasionally you may see me in the shop and in fact got snapped for the Friends website.
And, then you may see as a trolley dolly on the wards or in the medical day unit serving coffee.
Over the last few weeks, I have been touched by some of the patients, from those who have come up to me and said thank you and given me a box of chocolates or a card, to finding that over a chat it transpired the patient had trained to be a hair dresser in her earlier years and only trained at Phyllis Earle in Dover Street, my family hairdressing school in the 60’s.
I suppose now that I am in remission, I forget just how the staff at the hospital when I came to appointments were part of my personal journey so, when people come up and say thank you it is really touching.
Only the other day, I only had a £10 and the café had no change but two people behind me was a gentleman who it transpired I had taken under my wing the first day of his wife’s treatment and he bought my coffee – I was so touched. There have been many special moments over the past 15 months and I have forged relationships with many patients and become part of their journey, and nothing is better than having that moment when you hear there are also in remission and all is ok and we share a hug. Boundaries go out of the window at times like this.
Some days I leave drained and other days on a high and I do have friends who ask ‘why’ do I volunteer at the Royal Marsden is it not depressing. Well yes and no, I am human so I do shed a tear some days but when I was 16, I had a career valuation and one of the top jobs it stated for me was working in a cancer hospital. So, maybe now I am finding my vocation having realised that the wedding planning was too stressful and fundraising for charities was better suited to me. One thing is for sure that I really do enjoy helping people, following in my mother’s footsteps.
Alongside my volunteering at the Royal Marsden Chelsea, I am chairing the committee for the BADA fundraiser dinner next March for Maggie’ (http://www.badafair.com/charity-gala/charity-gala-evening.html ) . Maggie’s is another very worthy cause that supports patients with cancer by offering them a safe haven in the form of a centre, attached to many of the NHS hospitals throughout the UK.
If you want to give back you don’t have to give up as much time as me but if you have a couple of hours once a week or just once a month then please do consider volunteering, it’s really rewarding.