In 2008, my mum was admitted to the oncology ward at St. George’s Hospital. Since then, she has undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Monica, the Macmillan Cancer Nurse Specialist on the unit, really helped us all by involving us in the decision-making. She kept us all updated on any developments and always asked us how we all were. My two sisters and I were living at home, with one of my sisters being in the final year of her law degree. The oncology ward became a second home to us, as Monica and the other nurses allowed us to visit outside visiting hours and even revise there too. Monica did absolutely everything she could to ensure my mum was catered for in the way she wanted to be, taking into account our cultural and religious needs.
When my mum came home, my sisters, dad and I looked after her. We had to ensure she took her medicine, with which there were many expected and unexpected side effects. All this had a real impact on me and as with most carers, it affected (and still affects) all aspects of my life. However, Monica was at the end of the phone day and night: she was happy for me to call her any time I needed to, which was a real relief.
While I was in my first year at university studying Psychology, my mum was admitted to intensive care after receiving an autologous stem cell transplant. At this point, I had just started two new part-time jobs alongside my full-time degree course. I was also learning to drive, so I could drive my mum to hospital once she returned home. During this time, I was getting as little as three hours sleep some nights, trying to fit everything in.
I had started experiencing panic and fainting attacks, which often happened while I was at home, on the way to exams and at parties. I could never relax knowing that I had no control over my body and it could happen at any time. As a way to cope and to start bringing control back to my life I wanted to give something back. I started volunteering for Macmillan as an intern in the Health and Social Care team, gathering case studies for the Age Old Excuse campaign. I needed to do something to feel more positive, and it allowed me to feel positive about myself. I give something back every time I volunteer and I’m making a difference that I’m in control of. I went on to get a job at Macmillan, becoming the End of Life Care Project Officer in the Health and Social Care team.