Fiona Astin is a volunteer therapist at our Bournemouth Support Centre. She describes how a friend’s cancer diagnosis led her on a journey with Wessex Cancer Trust and why she finds volunteering so rewarding.
I got to know Wessex Cancer Trust because they supported a friend of mine when she was living with cancer. She was eternally cheerful and pragmatic about her terminal diagnosis and I loved her very much. Sadly, she passed away in 2018, but not without inspiring many people along her journey.
She had always been a willing volunteer for me to practice on over the years, as I learned to do Reiki treatments and then trained as a Shamanic Practitioner. Together we honed a combination of the two and she suggested I offer it at Wessex Cancer Trust’s Bournemouth Support Centre.
Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by ‘laying on hands’ and is based on the idea that an unseen life force energy flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If our energy is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects like feelings of peace, security and wellbeing.
My work also involves elements of sound and aromatherapy, which includes some increasingly loud drumming in every treatment. When I started, I was the only therapist working on a Monday, so it was quiet (until I started drumming, anyway!), but the team at the Support Centre has done an amazing job of increasing the number of volunteers and the variety of services on offer – they’re very open to trying anything new things which might help people. Now I’m usually working at the same time as counselling sessions and Tai Chi are going on. I always worry that I might be disturbing the work of others in the Centre, but nobody has ever complained – in fact they say they like to hear the drum and it’s even attracted some new people in for a treatment!
Living with cancer can be really tough. For the hour a client is with me I try to create an oasis of calm where they don’t have to think about what might be going on. Afterwards, they often hug me or even fall asleep because it’s so relaxing and a lovely experience for them.
I’ve been volunteering for a few years now and I absolutely love it! The team at the Centre is brilliant. They’re all so welcoming, the facilities are excellent and all the volunteers are valued. It’s a beautiful and humbling experience to carry out treatments there and a real highlight of my week.