'˜Seeing how people are looked after at Weston Park Hospital is just amazing. It is so humbling'

It takes a special kind of person to volunteer at Weston Park Hospital.

Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 4:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 4:38 pm
Volunteer Christine Yates.

Fortunately, Christine Yates is one of those people.

Since starting there earlier this year, the 69-year-old Lodge Moor woman has made a major impression with staff at the hospital's cancer support centre.

They praise her ability to connect with people who are often experiencing some of the most difficult times of their lives, and say she has been invaluable in helping people access the support they need.

From her point of view she says that despite the fact that she got involved in volunteering primarily because of her strong Christian faith, she also just likes the feeling of being useful.

The retired teaching assistant admits to some trepidation one her first few visits to the hospital, but says this didn't last.

'The first couple of times I came down on the bus I was apprehensive, but after the first few weeks I haven't felt anxious,' she said.

'Seeing how people are looked after is just amazing. It is so humbling.'

After trying a few other volunteering roles which didn't quite fit, she was put in contact with the cancer centre through a friend at her church and began volunteering there in July.

Now, every Thursday morning she talks to patients at Weston Park, pointing them in the direction of the cancer support centre and explaining the services that are on offer.

'I get so much back from it,' she says.

'The conversations I have with people are not what I had preconceived ideas of. It is not all doom and gloom and we don't always talk about their illness.'

'I thought they would be consumed by what they are going through but you can have a conversation that you would have anywhere.

'Quite often it is not obvious when you sit down who is the patient. Some people say you need to be speaking to the person they are with but I explain we are here for everybody.'

Gill Reynolds, volunteer coordinator at Weston Park Cancer Charity, says many of the volunteers have had personal experience of cancer, while others simply have some spare time on their hands and want to help.

The support centre offers patients and their relatives a one-stop shop of everything they need to know about having cancer or supporting somebody with it.

Their nurses can explain diagnoses and treatments in greater detail and other staff can provide help on how people can cope better financially while not working.

And they also offer alternative therapies like oracular acupuncture or pamper sessions for men and women aimed at helping patients feel as normal as possible while undergoing treatment.

Christine admits there have been some challenging times when patients have told her things she has found upsetting, but says the staff at the centre are '˜always there for you'.

'Since I started, friends have asked me whether I am enjoying it and I don't know what to say,' she revealed.

'I almost feel guilty saying I enjoy it - but it is a very positive experience.'

As part of her role, Christine was offered the chance to go on a tour of the hospital with people who had raised funds for the charity.

'When you hear that someone has cancer it doesn't mean anything to you and you don't think about the treatment that they are having.'

'Just seeing the way that women who have breast cancer have to lie on the table when they are being scanned or seeing the masks that people who have throat or mouth cancers have to wear was really humbling.

'And the very last thing we did on the tour was seeing people ringing the bell and celebrating the end of their treatment.

'It was just the icing on the cake and helped me understand just what they go through.'