Why I became a Marie Curie Helper volunteer
by Kim Martin Marie Curie Helper volunteer Marie Curie is delighted to have been chosen as one of six charities to benefit from ITV’s Christmas fundraising appeal, Text Santa. The money we receive will fund the expansion of our Helper service in communities across the UK. The service is provided by specially trained volunteers who offer invaluable companionship, emotional support and practical help to people living with a terminal illness and their carers.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. Following two operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I decided I wanted to gain something positive from my illness. I was so grateful for all the help I’d been given and, after learning more about the incredible service that Marie Curie Nurses offer, I decided this was a charity I really wanted to get involved with.
I lost my mum to cancer. She died in hospital and I felt so sad that I couldn’t get her home for her final days. She had been in a children’s home as a baby and had never been adopted, so I know how important being at home with her family was to her. Being in remission from cancer has also made me think about how I would want to be taken care of at the end of life. This is a big part of why I started volunteering for Marie Curie – the nursing service allows people to be cared for in their own homes, which is so important for people and their families dealing with terminal illness.
A helping hand
When I heard the Marie Curie Helper service was starting in the West Midlands, I went along to a meeting to find out more. I subsequently went on the training session, which was really informative and gave me the confidence to go ahead. My first match was a lovely lady in her fifties who recently died at the Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands, which was where she wanted to be at the end of her life. The Helper service matches volunteers with people who have mutual interests and this really helps to break the ice. We were of a similar age and had similar interests, like a love for music.
A shoulder to cry on
When I visited it wasn’t just about having conversations. Sometimes you are there just to sit and listen if they need to get things off their chest, or even just cry. Helper really is an invaluable service. With their family, people often have to put on a brave face and keep their emotions in, so as Helper volunteers we are able to fill a vital need. Often friends stop visiting because they don’t want to see that person looking ill. As a volunteer we are a friend but we have no preconceived ideas of how they should be. I was a little concerned how I would handle the emotions after spending time with a terminally ill person and wondered if it would remind me of my illness or the times when I have lost loved ones. However, when you are with them your focus is just on them. I looked forward to my visits and although she has passed away, it was a privilege to have met her and be a short part of her life. For more information on how to become a Helper volunteer, or how to refer yourself to the service, please visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/helper To donate to the Text Santa appeal, please visit www.itv.com/textsanta