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Our fundraising volunteer Ann Roberts wants to give back her time after we were there to support her when she was first diagnosed with incurable cancer more than 30 years ago.
The 69-year-old started putting her skills learnt working within the community education sector to good use when she joined us as a volunteer after retiring in 2016.
From giving talks in the community about Ashgate to doing her bit to help us prepare for our events – Ann, from Upper Newbold in Chesterfield, says volunteering gives her “a great sense of pride”.
She was first touched by our care after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 1991, aged 37; doctors said it had spread around her body and Ann was given a prognosis of two years.
Our “amazing” community nurse, called Michael, came out to visit her from the hospice and helped her come to terms with the “desperate” situation she was in.
Ann said: “The hospice was there for me when I desperately needed them. When I was first diagnosed – my kids would have been 10 and 12 – I had two operations and they thought they had stopped it in its tracks.
“But in a few short weeks they told me it was well and truly taking over my body; they couldn’t cure it and gave me two years to live.
“There was no emotional support at the hospital at the time. I thought I could handle it but didn’t want the boys to know how bad it was.
“My husband and I agreed we could keep it to ourselves but one day, my youngest son, who was a very affectionate little boy, refused to come anywhere near me. He said it’s ‘because I’m frightened of catching your cancer’.
“That was heartbreaking to hear. I thought that maybe I did need a bit of help but didn’t know where to go to.
“In desperation, I rang Ashgate and within two days, a nurse came to visit and was just absolutely brilliant and helped me get my emotions under control.”
Ann had what she calls her “lucky break” and the hospital was able to get the cancer under control.
Since then, despite another scare in 2001, Ann has lived a “fulfilling” life and been there to watch her children grow into adults.
She says she’s “incredibly grateful” for the support of the hospice 31 years ago and loves helping out at our Fundraising Hub in Hasland every Tuesday.
“Ashgate did so much for my family all those years ago and it’s a pleasure to give something back and do my bit,” said Ann.
“I remember the nurse Michael spoke with me, my kids, my husband – he realised that I’m a control freak and to put me in control of the situation, gave me all sorts of information and places I could go to do my own research to make it felt like I was in control.
“He was a lovely man and I’m incredibly grateful for everything he did for me and my family.
“I’m determined that the hospice should survive so other families can benefit as mine did. If by giving up a few hours of my time each week helps then I’ll continue to volunteer as long as I’m able.”
Now, she’s urging others to join her in volunteering with us – whether it’s as a fundraiser like her, in our shops or supporting families on our Inpatient Unit.
She added: “I’ve always supported the hospice financially or through fundraising – I even got my kit off for a charity calendar with the WI group once!
“I love volunteering. I get to go out into the community and tell people about the history of the hospice, what we do, how we’re funded, what it costs to run each year, how we’re staffed, and then if appropriate I’ll tell them my story too.
“I worked as a community worker for 26 years and had lots of skills that would just be going to waste. I’m also learning new things as I go along, too!
“I would certainly recommend volunteering to anyone thinking about it! Not only is it a worthwhile charity to support but we never know when we might need it ourselves.”
Find out more about volunteer opportunities at Ashgate Hospice.