Volunteering a little time makes a big impact


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Robin Finlay, Gaylene Farquhar and Brigitte McMillan are there to support patients in the chemotherapy room at Thames Hospital. 

Brigitte McMillan has been an oncology volunteer for the Cancer Society for more than five years. She’s also responsible for coordinating the two-hour volunteer shifts at the hospital to ensure someone’s on hand to support patients during treatment. 

The chemotherapy room at the hospital is small but comfortable. Seven reclining chairs line the room, and there’s a television on the wall.

With treatment lasting up to six hours, it can be a long day for patients, especially if they don’t have a supporter or visitors during the day.

“I love coming here and being part of their journey,” says Brigitte.

“I can take their mind off things while they’re here, take them to a different place. We don’t have to talk about what’s going on.”

Volunteer Gaylene Farquhar is no stranger to Thames Hospital. She started volunteering two years ago following her retirement from a 30-year career in nursing.

“Even though I’d left nursing, I didn’t quite want to leave the hospital. I wanted to go back and give back, to be able to do caring things and actually support people. It’s so rewarding.”

One of the newest members to the volunteering team is Robin Finlay, who was inspired by the desire to "give back to the community" as well as the impact cancer has had on her family. 

"I felt a bit awkward approaching some of the patients at first. But you get to know who wants to chat and who wants some time alone."

For some patients, volunteers are their first point of contact with the Cancer Society. It’s through our volunteers that people learn about additional services to support them on their cancer journey, including one-on-one support from a local supportive care nurse.