Pre-covid I walked into the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre and the waiting room was full of patients, their families and friends supporting them. As covid emerged it was very different quite quickly, much quieter, at least it was easier to park!
I had six months out of work as an Occupational Therapist and I was guilt-ridden thinking about what my colleagues were going through. I’ve worked for the NHS for several decades and this was a major event that I wasn’t there for. I wanted to support my colleagues and friends working in health at that time.
It was a tough time for everyone, for patients it was hard, the support services in the Hamar Centre had closed down. It was very lonely, there were no support groups running, everything had just shut down. Nobody really knew what was happening.
Going through it as a medical professional made me angry, I was angry after giving my life to the NHS and helping other people, and I thought ‘why me?’ but then ‘why not me?’
I had pretty brutal side effects from my radiotherapy treatment. Apart from the loss of my taste and smell, eating was eventually nearly impossible, I didn’t want to be in social situations because I just couldn’t really eat or drink. I lost a stone and a half during my treatment but was determined not to have a PEG fitted. Thank goodness for supplements. The skin on my neck burnt but that’s a small price to pay.
Now I’m living ‘cancer-free’. I have no ongoing medication apart from thyroid tablets. It’s measured from the last day of treatment so it will be three years in April (2023) since I finished my treatment. I have three-monthly check ups and feel very nervous before each appointment. Even before Covid happened I deliberately went on my own for some consultations and treatment so I only had to think about me, I couldn’t cope making sure everyone else was ok. I sometimes made the wrong decisions on that one.
Standing in the middle of a field at a colour run, attending a beautiful ball, dancing in Shrewsbury Quarry whilst discussing the importance of sun cream! … Where else and for who else would these events ever make sense!
Volunteering for Lingen Davies was my way of ‘giving something back’ but it has given back to me, more than I realised it would.
As I work for the NHS (and have done for more than three decades!) I was fearful of additional commitments, but the volunteering has allowed me to dip in and out when time allows, creating a fantastic balance.
It has been a great way to meet new people and I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. Everybody has reasons why they are involved but we all have the same goal.