Volunteering: Giving Back, Mutually Beneficial

As cancer survivors, we have experienced emotional scars and challenges. I was looking for inspiration and thoughts other than my life with cancer. I discovered that volunteering could provide comfort and satisfaction. Seeing suffering did not diminish my suffering but helped me realize that I was not the only one suffering.

Volunteering may give more meaning to life

Having dealt with cancer, I thought I might help support other patients with cancer. I discovered that being a volunteer makes a difference in a person’s life and positively affected my own life. As a cancer survivor and reading about the most recent research findings and therapies, I felt I could make a difference.

It is important to feel physically able to spend time volunteering. I waited until my chemotherapy was completed and the fatigue had improved.

When getting started, consider your interests and talents, and expertise. After seeking support as a patient from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I discovered a role of a First Connection volunteer. In this capacity, I would be paired with a patient with a similar diagnosis who wanted to speak with a fellow cancer survivor. I continue in this role and find it most satisfying.

My husband, who was my caregiver during my cancer treatment, also expressed an interest to volunteer after his critical illness not related to cancer. We discovered an opportunity to volunteer at the Caregiver Center in the Rehabilitation hospital where he received phenomenal care. This was mutually beneficial. We provided support to family and caregivers. As a former patient, my husband provided insight.

Finding something meaningful

When considering volunteering, find something meaningful to you. During my cancer journey, spirituality and faith provided comfort. I discovered volunteering as a religious instruction educator for elementary students provided satisfaction.

Do you want to provide one-to-one support to someone going through a similar type of cancer? Listening and letting people tell their stories, answer questions without giving advice, or pass judgment.

Consider other types of programs that need volunteers. Contact a cancer-related group, look at announcements in the local paper, church, or library.

Consider helping a friend or family member with a meal, doing household chores, or running an errand. Drive someone to and from the physician visit.

Volunteering can provide many benefits. Hopefully, the above suggestions may help you find a satisfying opportunity to volunteer.

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