Kathryn and Emily: two peas in a pod

Kathryn, who’s living with terminal bowel cancer, enjoys her weekly visit from Emily, a Marie Curie Helper volunteer. They both share a love of reggae music and have a great time when they’re together.

Emily and Kathryn having fun with a selfie!

Kathryn Owen and Emily Cook enjoy having a laugh together whenever they meet up.

Kathryn, 68, says: “Emily’s like a breath of fresh air to me. She’s got quite a happy and cheerful disposition, and it’s just a laugh-a-minute with her.

“She’s bright and bubbly, and I like that rather than some fuddy-duddy. She’s very kind, just absolutely great company and I’ve always felt quite relaxed with her.”

Connecting with music

Kathryn lives alone in her home in Roath, Cardiff. As she doesn’t have any family, a couple of her very good friends help out to look after her at home.

Kathryn’s social worker referred her to the Marie Curie Helper service last June and since then she looks forward to seeing Emily, 31, who visits her at home.

Amazingly, the two of them have very similar taste in music – both are keen on reggae and didn’t expect at all they would share this particular interest.

Kathryn says: “I love it because of the rhythm – and it’s just easy listening. But I was a little bit surprised when I found out Emily liked it too, that she’s got the same good taste as I have. There are also some DVDs we both like as well.”

Emily, who’s very fond of Kathryn, says: “Kathryn’s got a wicked sense of humour, which I picked up on straight away and knew we would be a very good match. There's loads we could talk about as we have the same music tastes."

Time to shop and talk

Emily decided to volunteer for Marie Curie as it’s a cause that’s close to her family.

“My partner’s mum died of cancer when he was in his early 20s, and then he lost his wife to cancer as well. Marie Curie provided so much help at the time.”

As a Helper volunteer, Emily dedicates around three hours of her time each week to spend with Kathryn, providing companionship and whatever support that is needed on the day.

On most occasions, Emily takes Kathryn shopping for groceries or clothes – but never to the same supermarket twice in a row, as Kathryn likes variety.

Emily says: “I help with the practical things. Kathryn can’t walk long distances, so we go shopping together and browse as many shops as we can.

“Otherwise, I’ll pop around for a coffee and we’ll have a chat. We also like to watch DIY SOS together.”

Let's take another one!

Little things can mean a lot

There are currently more than 600 Helper volunteers in different parts of the UK, providing all kinds of support to people living with any terminal illness and their families.

Emily says: “It’s so worthwhile, even if you’re just making someone a cup of tea and talking to them. I’d want this service to be available to my family.

“I’m not originally from Cardiff, I’m from Worcester, and I have an elderly relative there who I don’t get to dedicate enough time to see. So I think it’s a lovely thing that I would hope someone would do for her if I’m not around.”

Helper volunteers, like Emily, can really make a difference to the people they support, one small thing at a time.

“Sometimes we’re the only people who visit in a week. It’s really nice for me to feel that I’m making a massive difference and we’ve built a really good relationship.”

Find out if Helper volunteers are available in your area or how you can volunteer as one.