03 December 2018
Wednesday, 5 December is International Volunteer Day, a day to celebrate the dedication and commitment of our many volunteers and Ambassadors who devote their time to helping out at events, at our head office, and in the community. Without their ongoing support, we would not be able to be there for all South Australians impacted by cancer. Cancer Council volunteer Joan Warren, who has been donating her time for the past eight years, shares her reasons behind giving back.
My husband, Jim, was first diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago. He went through so many treatments—two lots of chemotherapy, as well as multiple rounds of radiotherapy, hormone treatments and complex urological procedures— all came with debilitating and life changing side effects, but they did work for a while. Jim was in remission for five years.
During that time, we were of course monitoring his PSA levels very closely. While the readings were still very low, they were steadily rising.
Jim asked for a bone scan, and I’ll never forget the look on the urologist’s face as he told us that the cancer had metastasized throughout his bones.
At that time, and throughout his cancer journey, we both reached out to 13 11 20.
We were fortunate to have a fantastic oncology team, but we wanted to get our heads around exactly what was happening. Sometimes you can’t absorb everything that the doctors tell you, or you don’t think of questions until you’re back home. That’s where the nurses were really helpful, offering trusted information to answer our cancer questions.
After having that direct contact with Cancer Council SA, and having a growing understanding of the vision of the organization and the diverse range of services offered, I knew that I could give back to help others in the same position.
I started volunteering while I was still working part time as an ESL teacher. I was working mostly with adult refugees in the New Arrivals Program, and while it was extremely rewarding, it had also consumed a great deal of my energy and focus for a very long time. I knew it was time to leave, and so volunteering was a welcome replacement that gave me a similar sense of purpose and gratification.
Jim also ‘rolled up his sleeves’ and supported Cancer Council SA several times with Daffodil Day, a Pink Ribbon event, an Adelaide Central Relay For Life in 2013 (creating his team, “Team Tuba Trampling Trembling Tumors”), and in August 2016, organising a fundraising concert with his band, Unley Concert Band, which he got Keith Conlon to compere.
For both of us, it was a privilege to be involved in these events and we enjoyed the opportunities to both listen to, empathise with and to share stories with other community members.
First and foremost, I choose to volunteer because I feel a personal tie to the Cancer Council SA due to Jim’s long ‘battle’ with prostate cancer. From day one of my involvement, I have been challenged and motivated by very dedicated and inspiring staff members and by other volunteers.
Over the years, my volunteering has taken a number of forms. I have telephoned, counted money, opened and sorted mail, filled mail, filed documents, created accounts and managed database contacts, entered data, receipted donations, packed orders in the warehouse….I am happy to do anything that will relieve regular staff from tasks which are time consuming and which my skills and access allow me to do. I have also been involved with event volunteering—Daffodil Day, Pink Ribbon, The International 3 Day Event, Tour Down Under and Volunteer Expos.
It is really great to be able to contribute to a cause that I really care about and to feel that I can develop, and use my skills in a productive way to help produce funds that will further the research, support, education and advocacy aims of the organisation.
Having put significant energy into my work over many years, approaching retirement was a little daunting—volunteering in this way provided ongoing mental stimulation, and opportunities for new friendships and support networks.
It has also been good to feel that I have been supporting the goal of ‘finding a cure’. I constantly wish this was as simple as waving a magic wand, but recognise that it is a slow, systematic, expensive and scientifically developing process. A significant number of friends, family members and work colleagues have dealt with their own varied and individual cancer ‘journeys’ over my working lifetime. Some are survivors and sadly some are not, including Jim, who passed on 19 April, 2017.
Throughout the period from 2011–2017, I felt the constant care, concern and support of staff and other volunteers at Cancer Council SA. The camaraderie and support here was uplifting and helpful, and I would invite anyone to get in touch to discuss how they could give back and support their community, too.
Cancer Council SA Volunteer
Joan is one of the 1,029 volunteers who together contributed almost 20,000 hours of service to Cancer Council SA this year. If you would like to discuss how you can give back, visit our volunteer page. Opportunities are available that suit your skills, interests, and time commitments.