What is it like – being an advocate for the Beth Johnson Cancer Advocacy Project? The first thing was finding the courage to apply, first of all I thought perhaps I was too old; secondly could I manage to drive around the Potteries when required to visit a client without worrying about it for too long? I phoned for an interview.
I feel very strongly about helping people with cancer as I have been a victim myself so it was very comforting to have my phone call answered by a very pleasant lady – the Project Co-ordinator. She informed me about the things I would need to do before I could be accepted.
I thought at first it would be quite a daunting project even though I was a retired nurse. The people we get involved with are vulnerable with life threatening illnesses to contend with, for example, being so ill they have to give up their jobs and have no money coming in, is yet another worry for them. This I soon found out after several courses and meeting lots of very interesting people who dedicate their lives to helping these sick, vulnerable people.
Several months on I have been accepted (I think?) and enjoy going round to visit these people. Some are very nice and it makes you feel quite sad because of their suffering but it gives you a nice feeling to be able to support them and signpost them to people and organisations that can help their situation. I, myself, did not realise just how many people out there can help and I have found lots of organisations willing to help older people affected by cancer. One such person, an elderly retired gentleman, had only his pension to live on and he had retired early through illness, was finding it hard to survive. My mentor, who I went to visit this gentleman with, was very good at explaining things to him, gave him lots of information on who to contact. It was so good to see the relief on this man’s face when we came away with a promise to follow up our visit with another one and keeping in touch by phone on a weekly basis.
This week we have another meeting and workshop. I will also have another person on my list to visit and a catch up with what has been going on with the other clients.
On the whole I am really glad I applied for this project. It is good to help people and also interesting learning about life with cancer and how other people who have no-one to support them can survive.
By Sheila Kay