“I believe my own cancer diagnosis gives me an empathy that can help others”

We have 44 paid staff and 300 volunteers across our four cancer support centres and five shops.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our charity. From bucket collections to befriending and everything in between, every volunteer plays a huge role in ensuring we can always be here for everyone who needs us.

Linda Huntley has been volunteering at our Isle of Wight support centre since 2018.

“Because of my own cancer diagnosis, I’d been supported by cancer charities myself and when I moved to the Isle of Wight, I wanted to be able to help others going through a tough time,” she says.

“I found out about Wessex Cancer Trust and the rest is history, really! Sometimes I volunteer for up to 30 hours a week and I get involved with everything. One day I might be helping to set up a drive-in movie and the next I’ll be befriending. I’ve even had occasions when I’ve been bucket collecting and then I’ll go and sit in the car for a bit so I can catch up with a client on the telephone.”

We know that living with cancer can be incredibly tough. Many of our befrienders – like Linda, have had cancer and so bring an empathy and ability to listen without judgement that can be incredibly comforting. She knows how cancer can impact the day-to-day and so gives lots of practical support to help make life a little bit easier – like talking to clients about wigs and sharing information about our free lanyards they can wear to suggest to others that they might welcome additional space, support or time.

Linda has been supporting clients remotely throughout the pandemic and says it’s been a particularly anxious time. “Because of Covid-19, many people have had a diagnosis delayed which, of course, has been incredibly worrying for them. Others have still been travelling to the mainland for treatment but have low immunity and continue to be concerned about catching Covid-19. Having cancer is hard enough as it is, but the pandemic has made so many areas of living with cancer much harder. I know that for these people, having someone at the end of the phone they can share their individual worries with has been reassuring.”

It’s obvious that Linda goes out of her way to use her own experiences to make a huge difference to the lives of local people living with cancer, but what difference does volunteering make?

“I find it incredibly fulfilling,” she says. “I just want as many people as possible to know that we’re here and not to wait, hoping things will get easier. It’s what we’re here for.”

It’s hard to believe Linda is a volunteer. She’s an integral part of the team and gives so much of herself to improving the lives of local people living with cancer. Nothing is ever too much.

Laura Fleming, manager of our Isle of Wight support centre