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From the 1-12 June it's Volunteers' Week and to celebrate the incredible work our volunteers do we asked one of them to tell us a bit more about her experience.
I first became aware of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust in 2013 when I was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer (adenocarcinoma & squamous cell). The Jo's Online Forum was an absolute lifeline to me during my diagnosis, treatment and recovery. They provided access to a supportive network of women going through similar trials and tribulations, yet still selflessly offering their invaluable counsel to others.
Following successful treatment (Radical Abdominal Trachelectomy & Lymph Node Dissection) and a very gratefully received "all clear" in the October of the same year, I was motivated to raise awareness and promote prevention of the disease. Initially I did this as a media volunteer, sharing my story during the charity's awareness weeks and various campaigns. I also took part in fundraising through sponsored runs. As a result of my involvement in these events, I met more and more women who'd been affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer. They were all so inspirational, I felt moved to do more.
In November 2015 I became a Helpline Volunteer. It was important to me to be able to share my knowledge to help others and although I still regularly logged on and contributed to the online forum, I was eager to provide a more personal, one-to-one service.
I'm not going to lie, it can be really tough when I'm speaking to women who are obviously going through an emotional and stressful time, but I feel like I'm able to put myself in their shoes and identify with their needs – whether it’s signposting, giving information or just a metaphorical shoulder to cry on, it feels good to be there for them.
It's amazing how many people call the Helpline and apologise for wasting my time, so it's crucial for me to show them that I am there to listen and reassure them that what they are feeling is completely normal. Often when people have cancer, they spend so much time protecting other people’s feelings (partners, children etc.) that they almost need to be given permission to express their own honest thoughts. To me, that is what the Helpline is all about – giving people a safe place where they can be open and candid without fear of judgement.
I know how important my role as a Helpline Volunteer is, because I know what it feels like to be that woman who doesn't know where to turn. I was only 26 when I was diagnosed and at the time I put a brave face on, but inside I felt very confused and scared. The Helpline is quite a cathartic way for me to understand and face up to my own feelings. It has helped me to turn my cancer experience into something positive, by utilising the strength I found after beating the disease to support others who might not necessarily be able to see a light at the end of their tunnel yet. Although I sometimes feel totally emotionally exhausted after a shift, I also find it incredibly rewarding. I have had the privilege of connecting with women at all junctures of their journey - from smear test anxiety to advanced stage diagnosis - and I feel as if have taken each step with them.
Interested in volunteering for Jo's? We have lots of different opportunities available >