PUBLISHED ON: 3 June 2019

This Volunteers’ Week, Juliet looks at how volunteering helped her in her recovery to grow as a person, and why she wants to give back. 

Juliet in her Breast Cancer Care t-shirt

Volunteering has helped me grow as a person 

Once I’d finished my active treatment, I started to think about how I could contribute to Breast Cancer Care. I wanted to give back to the charity as I’d benefitted so much from all of the services that I’d accessed.  

Both volunteering and campaigning have helped me so much in my recovery and encouraged me to grow as a person. It’s very much a win-win situation. I’ve learnt many new skills through volunteering, and I feel that I’ve contributed my time and experience to the charities and to the clients. I try to turn the negative experience of having had breast cancer into a positive one so that I can move forward and live the rest of my life as happily as possible. Volunteering has helped me to do this and I value the experience very highly. 

That nurse will never know how much she helped me 

The services I used from Breast Cancer Care had a very positive impact on me in lots of ways. I was given the big folder of information at my first appointment and, whilst, I didn’t want to look at it straight away, it was definitely very useful once I’d plucked up enough courage to read through it.  

I called the Helpline a number of times while trying to make my treatment decisions. I clearly remember coming home after I’d been diagnosed in somewhat of a panic and googling ‘breast cancer support’. Happily, I found the Helpline number and called it straight away. The person who answered will never know what a comfort she was to me and how she helped me navigate the first choices that I had to make as a breast cancer patient. 

I used the Someone Like Me Service a few times at different stages of my treatment and found it amazing that so many wonderful volunteers would give up their time to talk to people like me. In the early days of my treatment, and especially when I was having chemotherapy, I found the online Forum a great source of information and support. A group of us from the Forum who started chemotherapy in the same month are still in touch now, three years on.  

I wanted to give something back 

My first volunteer role was on the Moving Forward course. I’ve now volunteered at five courses and really enjoy the experience. It’s great to see the transformation in the clients from nervous and anxious in the first week, to much more positive and relaxed by the time the course has finished. It’s so lovely to see the relationships and friendships that are formed among the groups.  

I’m also a Someone Like Me telephone volunteer, which I enjoy just as much, but in a different way. I love speaking to clients on a one-to-one basis. And I like the immediacy with which I can see that I’ve made a difference to someone. I think that the two roles complement each other and feel lucky to be able to volunteer on both services. 

I want people to get the drugs they deserve 

I started doing media work for Breast Cancer Now when the charity was running a campaign to try to get access to bisphosphonates to all patients who would benefit from them. I was unable to access the drug as part of my treatment and did some press as a result. I’ve done a few more pieces of media on topics that were relevant to my cancer’s pathology and treatment, including a piece to camera which was shown on the BBC 9 O’Clock News.  

One of the most rewarding and successful pieces of work that I’ve been part of is the #55000 reasons campaign which focused on the NHS Long Term Plan, and what Breast Cancer Now wanted to see being included in the Plan. A group of staff and volunteers from the charity went to meet Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, to present him with a copy of the campaign’s report and a book which the charity put together, filled with ‘the reasons’ sent in by patients, friends and family.  

As a volunteer, the campaign felt so inclusive and I really felt that I was part of the team. 

I love being involved with both charities and I am looking forward to continuing with the new merged charity in the future. 

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