My name is Eileen. I am married and have three grown-up sons and when I retired from the Civil Service in 2010 after 20 years sitting behind a desk I promised myself never to work in an office again.
So on retiring I joined a local walking club, I revamped my garden and my little Jack Russell Finn got walked and walked.
In October, 2011 I visited the Macmillan Unit at Antrim Hospital for the first time. I was visiting a patient who was a friend of mine. To experience such dedication from the staff at the unit and such peaceful surroundings for the patients and their families, I just felt that I had to give some time to support people living with cancer.
I enquired how to become a volunteer and after completing the registration process I attended training offered to volunteers, which helped to gain an insight into cancer and its various treatments. I was allocated a role in Laurel House, just next door to the Macmillan Unit.
I volunteer one morning per week at Laurel House, which is an outpatients’ unit where patients undergo cancer treatment. My role involves supporting the patients at the haematology clinic every Thursday morning. When I say supporting, I mean I chat to them!
In a waiting room full of people I just have a look around and if someone is alone I will go and sit with them. It may be that they are worried or apprehensive, so I sit, they talk and I listen. Maybe they are worried about being out of work and I direct them to the appropriate person regarding benefits advice. Sometimes it’s a person who has access difficulties, so I will get them a cup of tea.
Each Thursday brings a new challenge as patients’s needs differ. If I can’t help, I have the support of the nursing staff and clerical staff in Laurel House and the Macmillan Support and Information Manager and Volunteer Coordinator - all of whom have made me very welcome and are always ready to help and advise me.
Being a people person, I really enjoy meeting the patients and their families and getting to know them as they come back over the weeks for their treatments. I am always amazed at their positivity and hope I might be helpful, if only in a small way, during their time in Laurel House.
If you have some free time, and are interested in becoming a volunteer within Cancer Services and like me enjoy spending time with people, then just do as I did and make that call.
If you would like to use your time and skills to support people living with cancer please contact Macmillan Volunteer Coordinator Elma McCracken on 028 94 424394 / firstname.lastname@example.org