Maria on being a Cancer Information and Support Officer

Published: 28 February 2020
Maria, a Cancer Info & Support Officer in her 40s, wearing a headset.

Maria is a Cancer Information and Support Officer on the Macmillan Support Line. Every call is different, from very emotional callers to requests for basic advice. 

Maria likes knowing she’s given someone the opportunity to offload their feelings or to get some useful information.

'A very challenging call can pan out to be a very good call.'

I'm very passionate about my job - I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. We have an unbelievable team working on the Macmillan Support Line and we love what we do. Just to know that you've helped someone at the end of a call, just for someone to say thank you, makes such a big difference. Day to day we answer calls as they come in, so we never know what's coming next. We just listen, offer emotional support and try our best to direct callers to more local support as well.

Some people are very quiet or crying when they get through. So I might tell them to take their time and tell me about their situation when they’re ready. I'll still be there while they compose themselves and feel relaxed enough to open up and let all of that bare emotion come out. We might not find a solution, but hopefully at least they’ll know which direction to go for further support.

It’s a fantastic team to work with - very understanding, and they’re really lovely people. We support each other during calls and after calls. So if we've had a particularly heavy call, we can offload so we're not taking that home with us.

'Sometimes people need a friendly voice at the end of the phone'

Some callers ring when their children are at school because they don't want the kids to hear. They want that private one-to-one and they know that they can do that on the Support Line at a time that's convenient for them. So when other family members are out, we get people calling just to talk about their concerns, their fears and their emotions.

A lot of people say they can't talk to family members. They need someone who doesn't know them, who's not judging them, who's not pointing a finger or coming back with any harsh comments. Sometimes it's just a listening ear they need - to get things off their chest, or open up about emotions they are bottling up.

Some people just want practical help, or if it's a medical question we'll direct them straight to the nurses, or if it's a financial enquiry, we have benefits advisers and a financial guidance team.

We can offer support and compassion, and sometimes people need a friendly voice at the end of the phone who they can just offload to and that's what we provide. We provide that service, that listening ear.