Wendy, 73, wanted to ‘give back’ after her own cancer diagnosis and so joined us as a volunteer befriender at our Bournemouth Support Centre. She shares her experience, as well as a few words of wisdom she hopes you find helpful.
I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2007 and was told I’d have less than a year to live without an operation. I didn’t have access to any formal support and so kept a journal all the way through. It really helped me to get it all out, albeit on paper, and to look back to see how far I’d come throughout that journey. That’s really what made me want to become a befriender.
Five years ago, I read about Wessex Cancer Support opening a new Support Centre in Bournemouth and immediately got in touch to see if I could help. I really wanted to give back and use my experiences to help others. As soon as I visited I could see straight away what a valuable place it is. Many people describe it as a ‘breath of fresh air.’ It’s local and free, and there for anyone with any type of cancer and at any stage. Lots of people just pop in for a chat or, we can arrange for them to have counselling sessions or complementary therapies.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, you can feel a bit like a rabbit in the headlights, not knowing where to turn. The hardest thing can be just getting over the threshold of the Support Centre door. The very last thing we want to do is add to anyone’s stress, so if you just want to sit and have a coffee and a chat that’s absolutely fine. There are no judgements or expectations.
Volunteering at the Bournemouth Support Centre is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Knowing I’ve helped someone is a real privilege and now I’m supporting new befrienders who want to do the same.
It was such a shame when Covid-19 forced us to close the Centre doors, but we did everything we could to support our clients on the telephone or over Zoom during that time. It’s been brilliant to be able to go back to the Centre recently to start seeing people face-to-face again, and we’re going to carry on supporting clients over Zoom because we know some people might not want, or be able, to travel. I think it’s our flexibility, and doing what’s right for every individual, that makes us special.
We understand that everyone’s experience of cancer is different. I wanted to share a few words of wisdom that I know have helped people through their journey, and I hope they help you too.