Cancer buddies set up by Sheffield charity give each other confidence and companionship
Jacqui and Margaret may have bonded through tragedy, but it is the happiness they bring to one another that has kept their friendship strong.
The pair first met through a cancer buddies scheme set up by Sheffield charity Cavendish Cancer Care.
The unique scheme trains volunteers, who have either had cancer themselves or cared for someone with cancer, to support someone else in a similar situation.
Jacqui lost her husband to cancer in December 2017, and was paired with Margaret, who also lost her husband, only a few years after having breast cancer herself.
Jacqui said: “When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I had real difficulty talking to anyone about how I was feeling.
“I was holding everything in because I wanted to be strong, but it was making me feel ill. I needed to let it out somehow.”
Jacqui and Margaret clicked instantly.
“It turned out we had more common ground that just our experiences with cancer - we came from similar professional backgrounds, in nursing. I was so grateful to have someone that was on the same page as me,” added Jacqui.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from Margaret is that everything I was thinking was absolutely normal. When you’ve lost someone close to you, you have these dark thoughts, and you criticise yourself for them.
“But I could say anything to Margaret - things I would never say to my family - and she’d say ‘yeah, I felt like that too.’ It was so reassuring.
“The other big thing I’ve taken away from our relationship is hope. Last year was my first year on my own, and it was a bit like wading through treacle. How on earth do you learn to be single again after 47 years? How do you cope?
“But seeing Margaret, who has moved on and remarried, showed me that there is hope, and a light at the end of the tunnel.
“She’s been someone to look up to. Because of the buddy scheme, I’ve got the strength and the confidence to know I can handle things. I owe that to Margaret. I don’t know where I’d be without her.”
The Cancer Buddies scheme was established by Cavendish in 2016, originally serving a small handful of clients.
In 2018, the scheme was highly commended for the volunteering award at the Sheffield Making a Difference Awards 2018. Now, the scheme is expanding and aims to connect more people in need.
Volunteers are trained and guided by the highly qualified cancer support staff at Cavendish, ensuring a high standard of support rooted in therapeutic principles.
Volunteers support their buddy through regular phone calls, with the therapists at Cavendish on hand to advise and guide the relationship.
Cavendish’s community and outreach manager Kim Scott, who oversees the scheme, said: “We have seen that the support of a cancer buddy can have an incredible effect.
“The fear of upsetting the people you love or being a ‘burden’ can cause you to bottle up your feelings.
“So the purpose of cancer buddies is to pair you with someone who’s totally removed from your life, but also gets what is happening. It’s a non-judgemental support network, and one that so many people desperately need.”
The scheme is currently welcoming applicants. If you think you might benefit from having a Cancer Buddy, contact Kim Scott on 0114 278 4600 or K.Scott@cavcare.org.uk. There is also a short form at cavcare.org.uk/about-us/cancer-buddies.