Find out about some of our volunteers
Ann Keith (Macmillan@West Lothian Information & Support Volunteer)
My name is Ann Keith and I have been volunteering with Macmillan@West Lothian Information and Support service for approximately 5 years.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and when I was attending hospital for my treatment I saw the excellent work being carried out by volunteers and thought how much I would like to do something similar. I knew I wanted to be a volunteer when I retired but had no idea the huge range of volunteering opportunities that were available. I got an application form to volunteer at St. John's but my friend suggested Macmillan as I had experience of dealing with cancer. However, I was too late for that year's recruitment but they kept my details and contacted me the following year which worked out well as Macmillan recommend that you give yourself at least a year from your own cancer experience before volunteering to support others. I went along to the Information Day, completed my application form, attended an informal interview and was selected. The training I received was brilliant and covered everything I needed to know to become a volunteer, including the history of Macmillan. Once I completed my training, I shadowed staff and experienced volunteers to find out exactly how the hubs operated. This was very valuable and set me up well for my new role.
The Macmillan hubs are different every day and I feel that I help to put people at their ease when they arrive. They are offered a cuppa and then we provide a listening ear. We are not medically trained but are there to listen and offer information and support. As the hubs are operating by appointment only at the moment instead of the usual drop-in service, I am now volunteering in the Oncology Unit at St John's for Macmillan@West Lothian. I speak to people who are waiting to go in for their treatment to let the know about the hubs and how Macmillan can help. As I have had cancer I can share my experience with regards to hair loss and different symptoms of cancer. However, I would only share my experience if I felt it was appropriate as not everyone wants to hear other people's stories. When people are waiting for their treatment they can be very nervous so it can be nice to have someone to talk to, especially as people have to attend appointments on their own due to Covid, unless it is their first appointment. My sister attended my appointments with me so I know how reassuring it is to have someone to talk to whilst waiting.
I really enjoy my volunteering role and like to think that I am helping people at a very difficult time in their life. Due to my own experience, I feel that I am now giving something back to people with a cancer diagnosis. I would like to do more voluntary work but I had to retire early due to my husband's health. I also have a busy social life and love spending time with my grandchildren so at the moment I don't have any more time to give. I never feel under pressure of do more with Macmillan@West Lothian. I let them know when I'm available and then I'm added to the rota for the sessions I can cover.
During the pandemic I really missed my volunteering and it has taken a while to get used to mixing with people again but with support from other volunteers and staff, I am now back and enjoying the role again. Hopefully once things are a bit more 'normal', I will get back to volunteering in the Macmillan hubs as well as in Oncology.
I feel my volunteering fits in really well with my life due to the flexibility of when I can volunteer, and at the moment, it is helping me to reach my target of walking 1,000,000 steps as I make sure I walk to the hospital from home when I'm volunteering in Oncology!
If you are considering volunteering in any type of role, please do it! It is a very worthwhile and satisfying thing to do.