27 July 2018
All of the volunteers at Cancer Council SA share an innate urge to help others. Whether they drive a bus, help out in the office, or hand out sunscreen at an event, every volunteer knows that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. This International Day of Friendship, decade-long volunteer Helen Cant shares her thoughts on the role of support networks during cancer treatment.
The best part about being a Lodge volunteer to me is knowing that you’re making a real difference to how someone feels at such a difficult time in their life. That’s such a precious thing you can give.
I volunteer every Thursday, starting the day at Greenhill Lodge, helping out with the morning tea, before doing some admin work and finally collecting guests from Greenhill and Flinders Lodges to go on a shopping trip.
I aim to try and make everyday tasks manageable and accessible. One tends to take things like going to the pharmacy or post office for granted until you’re in an unfamiliar city, dealing with cancer medications and don’t have access to a car.
A guest might not be able to negotiate with a pharmacist when their prescription is at home as they thought they’d only be in Adelaide for a couple of days which turns into weeks. Maybe it’s about having to deal with Centrelink when they’ve already had so much medical paperwork to get through. It can become just all too much. You really don’t know how much cancer can impact everyday errands until you see it first-hand.
But these trips are about more than just running errands. For some of the guests who don’t have a car or anyone staying with them, it’s the only chance to get out and about. We might just sit and have a coffee and enjoy the sunshine.
I find that forming relationships is a really big part of it. Coming every week, I can’t help but get to know people. And sadly, there are a few who find themselves coming back time and time again and for longer periods as they need more treatment, or have more bad news.
I have formed friendships, as well as providing a support role. There’s one particular couple who springs to mind. They have come and gone over the years for surgery, different treatments and experimental therapy. For some-time all was going well and then all of a sudden the cancer reappeared. Through such ups and downs, it can help to have a neutral person to offload on who has some knowledge of their journey. I’m happy that I can be that supportive presence.
I particularly love being involved with Lodge guests because of my rural roots. My mother’s family was from the mid-north, and of one of my best friends―who died of cancer―lived in Jamestown. I have so many happy memories and relationships from that part of South Australia, but I also know how hard it can be to access services and/or support. It can be quite isolating, so I try to be that connection wherever I can.
To anyone considering becoming a volunteer and offering this kind of support, there are so many ways you can go about it. If you’re a social person, you might like hosting the morning teas and chatting to people about how they’re going. If you prefer to tick things off a list, you might be better suited to office-based work. There’s such a range of roles―you just have to reach out and ask about what you could do to help and share your special skills.
Cancer Council SA volunteer
Staying at Cancer Council SA Lodges is more than a bed to sleep in. With access to social workers, emotional and practical support services, and communal areas and activities to connect with others, it aims to be a complete home away from home, to help ease the burden during a difficult time. Find out more about becoming a Cancer Council SA volunteer.