How Anthony is helping to support people living with cancer in South Yorkshire
Anthony Windith is the first to admit that elements of his role, as a volunteer for Weston Park Cancer Charity, can be overwhelming.
“People affected by cancer are impacted in more ways than we can imagine,” says Anthony, who volunteers alongside healthcare professionals, working to provide practical and emotional support within the Weston Park Cancer Information and Support Centre. As a volunteer within the organisation, Anthony offers guidance to people living with cancer on everything from health, to lifestyle and welfare.
“Our healthcare systems are under enormous pressure to meet all of the emotional, health and financial needs which, in turn, adds to the worry and anxiety many people already feel following their diagnosis,” explains the 19-year-old, of Broomhall.
“My role as a volunteer within the charity is to welcome visitors to the centre, to listen and talk, and sometimes that can completely change someone’s outlook.
“Yes, in the moment some conversations may seem a little overwhelming but when that person makes a real connection, it fuels you, because you’ve made a dark time a bit brighter.”
Anthony is one of around 100 volunteers working at and on behalf of Weston Park to help create a better life for people living with cancer.
Anthony started volunteering for the charity in 2017, while he was studying for his A levels, to gain first-hand experience in a healthcare environment and has volunteered regularly throughout his gap year. He now volunteers regularly, for around three hours each week, and is looking to go to university later this year, where he plans to study medicine. He revealed that that his time volunteering at Weston Park has drastically increased his confidence.
“Volunteering has given me the confidence to speak to people living with cancer and the emotional maturity to understand how to approach that person and what care and support they may need.
“Sometimes people need more than we, as volunteers, can give, and that's where the medical and support staff come in, but so often we’re there to just listen at a time when people need to talk.”
Nationally, statistics tell us that 78 per cent of cancer patients have emotional support needs, such as stress, anxiety and depression, but sadly, just one-in-ten say they receive sufficient support.
Weston Park Cancer Charity is committed to funding the things the NHS cannot, and raises over £2million every year to provide practical help to those in need, emotional support to those in despair, and enhanced care for those who need it most.
As a result of this, the Weston Park Cancer Support Centre offers a wide range of services, from one-to-one support, and group sessions, to complementary therapies, and a unique drop-in service:
“Because you can’t plan for a bad day,” adds Weston Park Cancer Charity CEO, Samantha Dixon.
“Weston Park Cancer Charity is the only dedicated charity for the hospital and exists to create a better life for those living with and beyond cancer, but we cannot achieve that ambition on our own.
“We’re shining a well-deserved spotlight on the huge difference our volunteers make to the lives of those affected by cancer - patient, family or friend.
“Our volunteers are incredible and give up hours of their precious time to support those living with cancer across our region. They are central to the work that we do here, and make a huge difference to the lives of the patients and families we support every single day.
“With a variety of opportunities on offer, from bucket collections to welcoming visitors at the Weston Park Cancer Information and Support Centre, it’s easy to give your time in a way that suits you and there are lots of benefits to becoming a volunteer, like learning new skills, improving your CV, building your confidence and meeting like-minded people who all want to help the same cause.
“Evaluation shows that following attendance at the Cancer Support Centre, as many as 74 per cent of patients reported they were better able to deal with anxiety and stress, and 90 per cent said they could now better plan for the future.”
Weston Park Cancer Centre is one of just four specialist cancer hospitals in England and the only one in Yorkshire. It is home to the only radiotherapy department in South Yorkshire, and has an internationally renowned reputation in the field of oncology.
Anthony reveals that, in addition to helping him to grow as a person, volunteering has also helped to shape his future career.
“Volunteering is about bettering the patient experience and about the difference you can make to someone’s day. I think it can impact on you, as a volunteer, as you're dealing with people at a very raw and emotional time, but the charity is very good about looking after its staff and volunteers emotionally, and making sure that everyone feels supported.
“Regardless of where I land in my professional career, I really hope to use my experience at Weston Park to help others grow like I have.”
Visit westonpark.org.uk if you would like to find out more about becoming part of the Weston Park Cancer Charity volunteer team.