When Maureen’s husband Barry was diagnosed with lung cancer, she had been by his side, caring for him through his cancer treatment and right up until he died last year.
Throughout it all, our Cancer Council 13 11 20 nurses were at the other end of the phone supporting Maureen while she cared for Barry and after he passed. The experience inspired her to volunteer for Cancer Council SA to support others going through a cancer diagnosis.
It was after taking part in his two-yearly Bowel Screening Test, that Maureen and Barry were shocked to learn about Barry’s cancer diagnosis. When the test revealed a polyp on Barry’s bowel, he was sent for a colonoscopy and an MRI. While the polyp on his bowel was benign, the MRI showed a 15-millimetre tumour in his right lung.
“He had always been a smoker, right from the age of 12. That was in the mid-50s—it was one of those things, that people smoked. He smoked right up until he died,” Maureen says.
“He had no problems with coughing or anything like that. It became quite a shock to both of us because he was so healthy. It amazed both of us that the bowel screening test was how they picked up the lung cancer.”
Barry underwent his first lung cancer treatment in 2019 which was successful. It wasn’t until two years later that he started feeling breathless. After having some scans, they found out the tumour had grown two millimetres which was enough to be invasive.
Unfortunately, Barry was not responding as well to treatment this time and after some time in the hospital, they decided that with Maureen’s experience as a nurse, she would take him home and care for him there until he passed away a few weeks later.
“If I had not had the support that I had from the Cancer Council SA 13 11 20 nurses, ringing me at home to check that I was okay and if I wanted any help, I could not have done it,” Maureen says.
“I felt closer to the cancer nurses than I did to anybody else, because they could understand what it was like.”
“When Barry passed, I had so much follow-up from Cancer Council SA. At first, I thought I would be able to manage on my own, but I didn’t manage, and I just gradually fell in a heap.”
“We’d just have a general chat about how things were going and my level of grief. They suggested some books which I got from the library, and they helped me cope now that Barry was gone.”
Maureen was so grateful for the support she received from our cancer nurses and counsellors that just before Barry died, she told him she was going to volunteer for Cancer Council SA to help others going through the same experience.
Soon, Maureen will start in her new role as a Connection Volunteer, facilitating a variety of activities and workshops for guests at Cancer Council SA’s accommodation.
Being around people who are going through the same experience is a vital part of the support offered by Cancer Council SA. Cancer Council SA’s volunteer-led Connection service invites guests to come together for morning and afternoon teas to relax, socialise and support each other.
“Barry and I had a really happy marriage, and during that marriage we bought two hotels and ran them ourselves. So when Cancer Council’s new building was going to be opened and this role came up to be a Connection Volunteer, I felt that I had the experience from all these things that I had done with our motels and nursing. It all went together,” Maureen says.
“I like the idea of being with people who are going through the treatment Barry went through because I can understand what they’re going through. They’re in a new environment, away from home and going into the unknown—I want to make their life feel a little bit nicer when they’re here.”
If you are impacted by cancer and need information and support, contact 13 11 20 and speak to one of our experienced cancer nurses or visit cancersa.org.au/support/support-services/13-11-20-information-and-support-service
To learn more about how you can volunteer with Cancer Council SA, like Maureen, visit cancersa.org.au/get-involved/volunteer