After 2 breast cancer diagnoses, Eileen wanted to support people like her. She decided to volunteer on our Moving Forward course and help with our hospital information points.
Can you tell us about your diagnosis?
In 2008, I was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer at age 56. 10 years later, I found I had invasive ductal cancer in the other breast. The first diagnosis was a total shock to me as nobody in my family had ever been diagnosed with cancer.
Where are you now?
I have sampled many treatments including a lumpectomy, 2 mastectomies, chemotherapy twice over, radiotherapy, oestrogen blockers and more. Now, at age 71, I’m delighted to be fit and well.
How did you find out about us?
Sadly, throughout my 2 cancer journeys, I knew nothing about Breast Cancer Now. I only discovered it through a friend’s social media page about 2 years ago. I was amazed at the wonderful information on the website and the support that’s available. I really wish I’d discovered it when I had my treatment.
I was really interested in the Moving Forward courses and immediately volunteered to help at the face-to-face events. I’d found moving forward a difficult phase in my journey. The transition from being a patient with every step mapped out to returning to work as a busy healthcare professional was difficult. I was lacking in confidence and anxious about recurrence.
What does your volunteering with Moving Forward involve?
The Moving Forward courses help people who are at the end of their treatment. These take place every few months. Each course usually has 2 volunteers, a facilitator and at least 1 breast-care nurse.
Around 6 to 15 people come to the events, which happen over 2 sessions and last 4 hours each.
There are plenty of chances to chat and share stories. And we talk about a range of issues, from treatment side effects and return-to-work problems, to self-confidence and intimacy issues. I thoroughly enjoy helping with the events and making people feel welcome. It’s good to feel I'm helping people during a difficult phase of their cancer journeys.
I discovered that some ladies weren’t aware of all the support available from Breast Cancer Now, just like I wasn’t. This led me to become an Information Point volunteer and help with hospital information stands.
How does being an Information Point volunteer work?
I order leaflets and information booklets for hospital stands and I keep them tidy and well stocked. I also talk to the hospital clinical staff, mainly breast care nurses and mammographers, and I help with breast awareness events.
My local hospital was my starting place, but now I’m covering 3 different hospitals along the North Wales coast. I’ve managed to increase the number of information points from 5 to 7 at these hospitals. Hopefully, as the number of stands increases, the volunteers to keep them stocked will increase too.
How has volunteering impacted you?
Overall, I find volunteering interesting, educational, sociable and rewarding. The volunteer recruitment process and training is professional and easy to navigate online. There’s plenty of support from the different teams who are all friendly and respond to any questions quickly.
I never feel pressured to take on more than I want to contribute. I’m extremely happy that I decided to become involved, and I may do other volunteer roles in the future.
What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would urge anyone who has a little time and enjoys meeting people to consider volunteering. There are so many roles available so it’s easy to find something you’d enjoy. And it’s a good feeling to know you might be making a difference to people.