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A volunteer who helps cancer patients after beating the disease himself has been honoured for ‘fantastic’ work. Mario Barlaba, a volunteer at the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre, at the Queens Hospital, Burton upon Trent, has received the charity’s Vicky Clement-Jones Award.
Presented by Helen Ashley, the chief executive of Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Queen’s Hospital, the accolade is given to volunteers who have, or have had, cancer and who now make a significant difference to the lives of people with the disease.
Ms Ashley said: 'It is very important to recognise the work of the volunteers in our hospitals, and Mario is a shining example to us all'.
Mario had six months’ intensive chemotherapy after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006. The 50-year-old now gives up several hours a day to help run the Macmillan centre, which provides information about cancer, financial information and emotional support.
Mario said: 'When I was diagnosed with cancer there wasn’t an information and support centre like this in the hospital'.
'My Macmillan nurse, Pat, was fantastic, and really supported me; but any extra information had to come from the internet. Pat applied for a Macmillan grant for me which paid for a cooker and a bed' he said. 'This really made a huge difference at a very difficult time in my life, so I was extremely keen to give something back to Macmillan.'
In 2009, I saw a newspaper article about the opening of the new Macmillan centre and the fact that the manager, Jo, was looking for volunteers, and I thought it would be just right for me and it has been, three years on and I’m coming in every day
Mario greets visitors and helps them with information, support and grant application forms.
‘The best thing for me is giving other people with cancer something I didn’t have. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from being able to do something to help people — doing something positive in a negative situation. It has also helped me get my confidence back.'
Centre manager Jo Dexter said the service would not have been able to keep running without Mario’s enormous’ contribution
'It means we can still keep the centre open even when I’m not here, which means people with cancer are benefiting from this service all the time' she said. 'He is fantastic about keeping all the various information points in the hospital topped up and is extremely well known and trusted by everyone.'
Before Mario was diagnosed with cancer he ran an Italian restaurant in the town but was forced to give it up because of his treatment.
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