Over the past few years, I have certainly had my fair share of Cancer hospitals and what I remember the most was the friendly faces that would greet me, show me the way, and comfort and pacify me.
So, rewind three years when I was the main carer for my mother and spent a lot of time in the Spires hospital in Reading and it was the nurses who kept me sane, as been a carer is not an easy task. In fact, at times you have to be stronger than the patient and show no weakness. Knowing what I know now first hand, helps me when I am volunteering as a Friend of the Royal Marsden Chelsea. Also, when i volunteered at Maggies Centre’s head office in London i realised what amazing facilities they had for cancer sufferers and their families.
Having experienced the Royal Marsden Hospital Chelsea for the past 18 months or so, as a patient, I always felt safe their, as the ambience that they create inside reflected this. From walking in the main front door and being greeted by a smiley receptionist who always replied to my ‘good morning’ as I came in for treatment. I recall in my time of treatment two people who were their when I was disoriented and that was a lovely ambulance man and a cleaner. And, still to this day when I see them we say hi. One think that I did learn on my NHS induction day was, that everyone in the hospital should take pride in their jobs and help everyone and I can safely say this is the case.
Also, something that was key to my treatment was the Friends trolley which would come into the chemo area and the trolley dollies as I used to call them were always a breath of fresh air. I wouldn’t call them that now as i think most of them would shoot me!
So, I finished the main haul treatment in October last year and then the hormone replacements end of March and as i had given up work, i decided i was going to give back to the place that saved my life and if i am honest, changed my life and made me the ‘real’ Sarah.
I joined the Friends of the Royal Marsden Chelsea and i really love it, whether i am in the shop or on Meet & Greet. I will be doing the training in due course to be in the café, pushing the trolley and working on the wards – all very important areas.
I have had to train myself to use the official names for the units, as i called the Medical Day Unit where we had chemo, the Chicken Factory – well it was like that. And, then outpatients on the 1st floor was the fish tank as their was one and a focal point helped to remember where i was going. Now i am becoming a dab hand at finding my way around and enjoy helping people though i have had a couple of mishaps.
In my first week, i forgot to the ask the ambulance men bringing in a patient if he was NHS or private and we went all the way to the other side of the hospital, only to find we needed to be somewhere else – slightly embarrassing but they all saw the funny side of it as i was honest and stayed with them till he was in the right place.
Then, possibly the most embarrassing story but how was i to know who the gentleman was. Anyway, an NHS big wig who knew the hospital but wanted to be escorted to meet the Chairman of the Trust. So, off i walk out of the hospital, along the Fulham Road and down the side road thinking it was the offices, oops no. So i smiled and we walked onto the conference facilities and bumped into doctors, who were almost bowing down to him and i thought OMG who is this chap. Anyway, i then realised that the Rapid Diagnostic Unit is also known as Mulberry House, 10 minutes later i got him to the right place and whereas he wasn’t a happy camper, he did say thank you.
But on the whole, i think i give patients and visitors ‘peace of mind’ and over the past month since i started doing the meet and greet i have met some lovely people.
Then, i do the shop of a morning and its different but it is also a hub for chitter chatter and i have met some amazing people. Some of the stories have made me laugh (something you can do as a fellow patient as there is a strange sense of no boundaries) and some have had me in tears.
But i really hope that me being Sarah can help people overcome any fears they have. I kicked Cancer into touch and i am a different person for it and giving back my time, is making me the person i want to stay.
Only yesterday, i met a lady in the corridor completely stressed out as she had been sent to the same department twice but from two different directions and was going to be late for her appointment. So, i said lets find it together and off we went. She was off to Lymphatic Drainage and was scared about it, but when i delivered her to the waiting room she was relaxed, just listening and reassuring costs nothing. I also told her about the amazing charity ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ she needed a lift so that she could take the plunge and go on holiday. Having been nervous myself to go away, i knew how she felt and when you say it out loud it helps.
I have agreed to do two sessions a week and i am a better person for it and still get that safety feeling when i am in the hospital, something if you haven’t experienced it you may think i am a little mad.
So, if you have a spare couple of hours whether it’s once a week or once a month then think about giving your time to a very worthy course, and volunteer for the Friends of the Marsden Chelsea.