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Lucy tells us in the below interview what it's like being a Helpliner for Jo's.
I'm one of the helpline volunteers and I have two three-hour shifts a month. As a helpliner you work from home, ideally somewhere quiet, for example I go into the spare bedroom with the phone, my laptop and the Jo's folder with all the information. Often you are waiting for someone to call so I just relax by reading a book, doing embroidery or reading up on all the information.
I was looking for something else to do outside of my usual 9 to 5 job and having previously been diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells, I knew of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust and the incredible way they support women. I wanted to help in some way other than fundraising or donating money, so after looking on their website I decided that volunteering on the helpline would be something that suited me.
There is a residential training weekend every year and volunteers are split into groups of helpliners and support group leaders. You attend different workshops during the weekend and work on things like improving your listening skills and exchanging experiences with the other volunteers. It's such a great weekend because you get to catch up with the others and also get to meet people from the Jo’s office. Delivery of the training is always fantastic; it's just a great weekend.
One situation that stuck in my mind is when I had a shift on a Friday evening. All day it had been sunny and there was me sitting inside almost at the end of the shift and no one had called. My partner had ordered a take away and I felt like it was a particular sacrifice to be on a shift that evening. Then the phone suddenly rang and it was a lady on the other end who was very distressed. I spent time with her and just listened; by the end of the call she was not crying anymore and we were laughing together. That moment made me realise that it was all worth it. It does not matter if no one calls or you have to sacrifice a couple of hours for a shift because ultimately it’s about being there just in case someone needs you.
I believe it takes a certain type of personality; you need to be patient and empathetic, be caring and wanting to help people. Volunteering on the helpline can be challenging and sometimes difficult in ways you wouldn't have thought but at the end it's so rewarding, it makes it worth your time and effort.
I'm not very confident sometimes and at the beginning I definitely doubted myself. The first few calls I was unsure if I could do it and really provide people with what they needed; I was so nervous. But with every call I got more confident so I would tell myself to just stick with it and it's not about providing advice but about listening to the caller and providing empathy and information where appropriate.