This week is Volunteers' Week, and we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate and thank our own volunteers, the cancer information reviewers. In this blog, our Editorial Assistant Steven explains what they do and why they’re so important for our team.

‘Sorry,’ wrote Jenny, one of our volunteers, ‘unfortunately I was diagnosed with breast cancer last Tuesday so I'm a bit "up in the air” at the moment. I’ll get back to you asap.’ I had emailed her about the information she had offered to review, wanting to make sure she received the draft I‘d sent after I didn’t hear back from her.

As you can imagine, I felt awful for chasing her and assured Jenny that she should forget about the review and focus on dealing with her diagnosis. But Jenny insisted that she could do the task, adamant that she wanted to help.

Jenny is just one of the reviewers who give their time to help us improve the quality of our information. This Volunteers’ Week, we’d like to celebrate the important work they do.

Who are our cancer information reviewers?
To make sure our information meets the highest standards, we regularly send it out for review. Copies are sent to cancer specialists but we also want the opinions of people who have been affected by cancer.

For this, we have a team of over 220 volunteers. They represent all ages (from 18–90) and backgrounds, from students to retirees. They hail from all over the UK and each has experience of cancer, either first hand or through a friend or loved one. Each month, we send them a newsletter with a list of titles that need reviewing. Our reviewers can volunteer to look at those that match their experiences, or those that seem interesting. We send them the current edition of the information, along with a reviewing form, and wait for their feedback, which we pass on to the nurses and editors.

Why do we need reviewers?
It is really important to have people affected by cancer looking at our content, as Senior Information Development Nurse Sue Green explains, ‘It helps us make sure that we give the right amount of information, and that it’s clear and people can understand it. Maria Lavery, another Senior Information Development Nurse, adds, ‘Our reviewers really help me remember the potential impact of our information on people’s lives. They make us think beyond diagnosis and treatment, and place equal importance on living a life with or after cancer.’

Why do our reviewers do it?
‘I became a reviewer,’ says Judith, ‘because when my parents, and later I myself, were diagnosed with cancer, Macmillan publications were really useful in helping us to understand our illness, the treatment options and the medical terminology. I wanted to show my appreciation and this seemed ideal.’ Another reviewer, Irene, says, ‘I find it very rewarding. I feel as if I am giving back some of the support that I received.’

What difference do our reviewers make?
So what are the results of their endeavours? I began this piece by telling you about Jenny, who reviewed a leaflet about getting support after a diagnosis. ‘I found it very interesting,’ she wrote in her feedback. ‘I'm having my result appointment tomorrow and there are some points I’ll raise! I think this is a very useful leaflet and it has certainly pointed me in the right direction.’

We couldn’t ask for a better way to show how the input from previous reviewers helped give Jenny the information she needed.

This Volunteers’ Week, let’s hear it for Jenny, Judith, Irene and all of our information reviewers, who help make our information what it is.

Would you like to become a Cancer Information Reviewer? Click here to apply.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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