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What it means to be a Cancer Information Centre volunteer

Cancer can be overwhelming, but finding the right information and support can often make a world of difference. This support can come in many shapes and forms, including in the form of Cancer Council SA Cancer Information Centre volunteer Peter Dunn, and others like him.

For the past five years Peter has been providing South Australians at the Lyell McEwin Hospital with a friendly, familiar face and an ear to listen to during what he says is often a difficult time—all with a biscuit and cup of tea or coffee in hand.

Through his volunteer role, Peter helps provide information and support to help ease the burden of cancer.

“I’ve been volunteering for a fair while—around five years now. I do two mornings a week, but it often rolls into three,” he says.

“For some, what I do makes a huge amount of difference.

“I offer tea and coffee and we get chatting, we talk about anything that might be troubling them and I help where I can by directing them to Cancer Council booklets, information and Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 nurses.

“Being able to be present at the Cancer Information Centres to let people know what Cancer Council can do to help them—whether it’s a little Wallaroo getaway or over the phone counselling—I’m sure it’s a huge help to all the people who go to any of the hospitals for treatment.

“A lot of people don’t know what is available to them. Just informing them of what we have available and letting them know that there is always someone there and that they don’t have to go through cancer alone can help.

“The Cancer Information Centre is a place to have a chat, laugh, a coffee and let me try and make their day a bit easier and a bit brighter.

“I love being a familiar face for them during a very unfamiliar situation, I think it’s nice to have that.

“I love the people there, I love doing what I do. I love the satisfaction that comes with people getting well and the staff around who appreciate volunteers like me for what we do. Because what we do makes a lot of difference to some people.”

Cancer Council SA has Cancer Information centres at three locations including the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Lyell McEwin Hospital and a newly opened centre at the Flinders Medical Centre, which launched on 4 February 2020 in line with World Cancer Day and hosts its own Outreach Nurse.

Cancer Council SA’s partnerships with each of the hospitals to deliver the Cancer Information Centres is unique, but each centre is focused on connecting visitors to information, with the support of caring volunteers, who will guide them to available information and support services.

Cancer Council Support Service Coordinator, Amanda Robertson says there are many benefits to having Cancer Information Centres at the three hospital locations.

“The partnerships that Cancer Council SA has developed with the respective local health networks, is incredibly valuable because it enables us to extend our reach to the people that need it the most and does so within a collaborative model of care. Knowing that we can provide a friendly face beyond the busy clinic rooms and treatment centres, someone to listen, a trained volunteer to guide people to appropriate information and support—it really does make a difference.

“Access to quality cancer information is vital when you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer. Having access to trusted evidence-based information helps people feel more confident in understanding their cancer, its treatment, in the decisions that they make and how they will cope with what lies ahead. Not only can it reduce distress but can improve quality of life.”

Amanda says having information and support readily available at the Cancer Information Centre means that people can get the information they need in a timely manner and with ease, at the same time as seeing their doctor, having their treatment, or perhaps having a follow up scan. It is often at these times she says, that questions are raised, and we have the answers.

She adds that it’s not only the information that makes an impact, it’s the friendly volunteers, like Peter, who give their time to the Cancer Information Centres.

“As we know, a cancer diagnosis can be an overwhelming experience, so having a skilled volunteer to guide you in the right direction is such a help. All volunteers at the Cancer Information Centre are comprehensively trained and have strong knowledge of what support is available for people impacted by cancer.

“I would encourage people that have a Cancer Information Centre in their local hospital to visit, say hello. Our wonderful volunteers are here to help, offering information, support and understanding to anyone affected by cancer.”

“If you don’t have a Cancer Information Centre, one of our experienced 13 11 20 cancer nurses can assist you, by phone, email, online chat or visit us at our Eastwood office. They too can guide you to appropriate information or connect you with a range of support services.

“The Cancer Information Centres are also a great way for health professionals to have accessible, evidence-based resources which complement their services and support them to undertake their role in caring for people with cancer.”

For more information about Cancer Council’s Cancer Information Centres, Outreach Nurse and additional support and information services available, call 13 11 20 or send an email here