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Today marks International Volunteer Day, and to recognise this Julia, who’s volunteered for Macmillan since 2011, has shared with us a little about her story, and the affect volunteering's had on her life following her cancer diagnosis.
A year in the life of…
I can’t believe another year has passed so quickly! Volunteering for Macmillan has been in sharp focus this year and yet again, it has been wonderful, scary at times and so very worthwhile.
I started volunteering for Macmillan in 2011, as soon as I was able to return to some sort of ‘normal’ after surgery and chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. My inspiration to do this was my Macmillan nurse who introduced me to sitting in front of the camera for a film to promote Macmillan's Coffee Morning and I haven’t looked back since. You can still see this film on YouTube.
My next venture into volunteering was to help out the regional fundraisers and I found this to be a fantastic way of easing myself back into work. My employer at the time of diagnosis had made me redundant after 20 years of service whilst I was having my cancer treatment and I had no job to go back to.
The next few years have been filled with amazing experiences and it has been an absolute honour to do this for my beloved Macmillan. You see, I’ve had cancer again since that first episode, twice more in fact, and to cap it all I have squeezed in a double mastectomy and reconstruction in the middle of all this (my BRCA1 gene is very faulty). And my Macmillan nurse is still there for me now.
This year’s diary was choc-a-bloc with some very swish events, starting out with a trip to Buckingham Palace in early February. I was honoured to be invited along with many other fellow Macmillan volunteers to an evening reception with Prince Charles. Nervous does not even come near to describing that evening. But it’s an evening I will always remember and which my father has been dining out on ever since – so proud.
I discovered my voice after the cancer diagnosis and many of the events I get involved in require a speech about me/Macmillan/the journey to inspire others to donate money to the cause. There have been several big dinners and balls this year to speak at and luckily no-one is bored of me yet. I particularly enjoyed speaking at York Races this year as the Nurse Pledge which followed my ramblings raised over £80,000. My jaw clanged to the floor when I was told this – in fact I am still speechless.
I like to cheer and marshall at local running events for Macmillan, so this year it was Leeds Half Marathon and Leeds 10k. It is four hours of losing your voice, and smiling, taking photos and geeing on all the wonderful people who are running for charity, with special cheers reserved for Macmillan runners of course. I have some very particular memories of these races, seeing the lovely John, 'the man with a pram' each time (what a guy), seeing the friends who are running for Macmillan with me in mind (so humbling) and the year I broke my arm and continued to marshall for two further hours until the race was over. Exceptionally clumsy of me….
The culmination of a Macmillan volunteer’s year is the now well established Volunteer Conference at which I was very honoured to be the 'day two keynote speaker' in its first year. It is a wonderful way to learn about other volunteers and how they raise money and help cancer patients and their families. It re-energises you and inspires you to do even better in your voluntary work afterwards. So if you get the chance to go, I can recommend it.
I have eaten cake, bought cake and judged cakes for Macmillan's Coffee Morning. I always take these opportunities to tell the audience about what Macmillan does, and why these events matter.
And then there are the little special events, like a talk to a committee at a church hall, a tea dance with lots of cake (bit of a theme starting here), picking up collection tins and banking money, and of course, carrying my favourite green bucket. There was even a strong Macmillan presence at our local Dragon Boat race this year – including me shouting myself senseless as usual.
I wouldn’t change a thing, even having to live with cancer, because volunteering gives your life meaning and makes you feel like a useful member of society again.
If I can inspire just one more person to volunteer, raise some money, or be a Cancer Voice, like me, then my life has been worthwhile.
Volunteers are amazing!
If, like Julia, you’d like to volunteer for Macmillan, why not take a look at the volunteering section of our website to learn a little more about the volunteering and the different opportunities available.
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