Cancer Council Queensland’s practical support team talked to one of our Brisbane Transport to Treatment Volunteers, Ray, about his story and how he practices self-care in his daily life.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your story.
Volunteering with Cancer Council Queensland (CCQ) is very personal to me, as I lost my wife to lung cancer in 2002, when she was 48. My wife’s diagnosis and lung cancer journey was quick, as she was diagnosed in late 2001 and passed early in 2002. It was difficult to process and there was no treatment that could be offered at her stage. My father also passed away from cancer in 2008 when he was 81 years old.
Both Cancer Council and Wesley Hospital had an ongoing support program after my wife had passed away. Our family was fairly proactive in this and my youngest daughter responded to a few of their requests and programs, as she was only 21 at the time, and was fairly affected by her mum’s passing. She began supporting various fundraising activities such as Daffodil Day. She got me interested in volunteering for CCQ.
What do you love most about your transport volunteer role?
I like making a positive contribution, particularly towards working towards a cure. Volunteering in the transport service is my way of making that contribution. I can’t put forward large sums of money, or provide any medical knowledge, but I can put time and effort into something that is part of the process. Time is something you can give, time is money. The volunteer side of transport makes the whole service work and creates efficiency, while freeing up funds that can go to other areas like research.
What has surprised you in your transport role?
The extent of the network surprised me. I wasn’t aware of how I was one small part of a bigger operation. I also didn’t realise all the services that go on at CCQ until I had my induction training. There were people involved in so many other areas in our induction group.
What has been the most inspiring or memorable moment you’ve had since starting with CCQ?
All sorts. Most of the time I am volunteering is memorable. There is no specific thing I can pinpoint, but it is the feeling that everyone is thankful, whether I’m collecting them from the airport or picking them up from their home to take them to treatment centres. How thankful they are for your time as a volunteer is always memorable.
It is different from normal working life when people only jump on you when you do something wrong. As a volunteer I feel very appreciated. It’s a nice change from a commercial working environment.
From a personal experience, seeing a specialist at the Wesley was stressful to get through traffic, then be slugged for parking. Transport means 90% of the worries are gone in one service. I think it also makes it easier for people to follow up on their treatments. If it was a struggle to just get there, people might not do their treatment.
What is your hope for the future?
I’d like to see CCQ obtain their goal of ultimately finding cures and better methods of treatment. Which has happened. I basically see it as the goal of the CCQ.
What do you hope your volunteering will achieve for cancer and CCQ?
I guess my thought was that I can help people provide for themselves and minimise their costs. Because the transport I provide is on a volunteer basis, there is no outgoing money from CCQ, so they can direct funds to more needy areas.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about volunteering in transport or with CCQ in general?
Just do it. Don’t waste your time wandering around, thinking of what you could be doing – do something. In some ways, it’s been a bit of my nature to get involved and throw myself into things. I have always been a proactive person.
How do you stay focused and connected to your role?
I enjoy driving and the challenge of getting people to appointments on time with a minimum of fuss. With older people or younger people that feel less than perfect, either stressed mentally or physically feeling ill from treatment side effects, I try to drive gently. I keep myself relaxed while I am driving to enjoy what I am doing.
What do you do in your everyday life to focus on your own physical and emotional needs?
I have a great circle of people in my life. I have a good relationship with my partner who I have been with for 10 years and have family and friends that provide fairly good structure. I am never lonely.
I try to do my bucket list things. In my time off I have toured Tassie and did the Melbourne Cup last year. It was a nice break. In previous years I have taken trips to Broken Hill and Adelaide – the wine areas.
I also focus on my hobby as an enthusiastic car restorer. The last one I did up was a 1966 MG. A little British sports car. In previous years I was involved in motor sport racing another MG and an Alfa Romeo and used to volunteer in motor sport meetings. I also used to play and Coach rugby and was the President of Kenmore Club for a while. Now I watch my grandson’s play.
If I get interested in something, I jump in.
Do you have any tips for other practical support volunteers on how to relax after volunteer shifts?
Have other interests and pastimes. It’s a good way to unwind. People should make sure they keep their other interests and pastimes and circle of friends. Don’t shut yourself away.
We recently moved to an apartment, and one of the advantages of moving into an apartment is that I am not burdened by other work.
Do you have your own support network that you lean on? How do they help?
My family keep me grounded. My partner Anne and I sort of support each other. She does volunteer work through the local church and is a regular volunteer at the Writers Festival. So we support each other in our volunteer roles. I have two daughters and three grandsons and together with Anne’s two daughters and son and grandson, there is a big family network all in Brisbane. We see each other on a regular basis. I do some school drives too, if my daughter can’t manage it.
To find out more about volunteering with us visit our volunteer opportunities page.