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The main role of a Helpliner is to provide information and to just be there for the person on the other end of the phone. I had a call one evening and all the lady wanted to do is cry, I told her that’s perfectly ok. You’re there for someone in that moment in whatever way they need.
In October 2010 my oldest daughter Maria was diagnosed with cervical cancer. By Christmas she had had a hysterectomy and on her 26th birthday in February she started chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Coincidentally, my two other daughters were also diagnosed with cervical cell changes at the time. All of us turned to Jo's at some point for much needed information and support which is why, after Maria finished her treatment and when things had calmed down, I decided I wanted to do something to give back to Jo's. After a bit of research I found out that their Helpline is answered by volunteers and luckily they were looking for people to help out.
All of the volunteers on the Jo's Helpline have personal experience of cervical cancer or cervical abnormalities. I was the first family member of someone diagnosed to become a volunteer. It was a unique situation for both Jo's and myself but I had been with Maria every step of the way and at her side at every single appointment so I was as close to it as I could get. The Helpline is also used by mothers, partners, siblings and friends so it helps to know what it feels like to support someone affected.
I went to my first volunteer training weekend in 2013 and I didn't know what to expect. On the Saturday I suddenly thought; 'what have I got myself into, can I really do this?' But the training was so good that by the end of the Sunday training session I just thought; 'Yes, I can do this!'
When I first attended I didn't know anyone but the existing Helpline volunteers all look out for the new ones and the Jo's staff were lovely. I always make sure I go to the training weekends now, we have such a laugh, there's always someone new to talk to, you get to know people, make friends, swap ideas and best practice. The weekend is extremely informative and very inspiring and during my time as a Helpliner I attended four training weekends.
Before I took my first call I had no idea what to expect. You have training and talk to people who have done it for a while, but until you answer that first call you have no idea what it's going to be like. I was always a little bit nervous because you never know who was going to call you, but in the end you know you have helped someone and hopefully they feel better.
Unfortunately after 4 years, due to a change in work commitments, I had to give up volunteering as a Helpliner. I was told that during my time on the Helpline I had answered 144 calls. Even if just one of those callers decided to go for screening as a result of their call or if one person felt better after calling the Helpline then it was definitely worth doing. I hope to go back on the Helpline in the future but in the meantime I support my daughter Maria with her media volunteering, I volunteered at the Be Cervix Savvy Roadshow in Cardiff and, with Maria, went to the Welsh Parliament to raise awareness with Assembly Members.
In case you're unsure if you should apply to become a Helpline volunteer I'd say; if you feel like it's something you want to do, then apply. The training Jo's provide is great and it will give you the confidence you need. You get so much out of it and you will find a lovely family at Jo's who will support you and provide the encouragement you need. You're not on your own, the other volunteers are there to support you as well. It's a bit scary but even if you only help one person you have helped someone and that's definitely worth doing.