LISA'S STORY - From Supporter to Support Worker…
Last September I took on my biggest running challenge to raise money for Mummy’s Star, a charity very close to my heart. Mummy’s Star is the only charity in the UK and Ireland dedicated to providing support and raising awareness of cancer in and around pregnancy.
Thanks to a great deal of generosity and support I managed to raise £3,235.60 (+£625.85 in Gift Aid). Little did I know then that 7 months later I would be working for the charity and seeing first-hand where this money goes and the impact it makes.
'I ran around this lake 37 times = 44 miles'
I’ve been a supporter and ambassador for Mummy’s Star for the past 4 years ever since they supported me when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when my twins were 6 weeks old. I would love to say I jumped at the chance to work for the charity but in reality I was apprehensive because I know how important their Information and Support Worker roles are and I wasn’t convinced I was cut out for it. But after a lot of thought and chats with other members of the team I applied and I was over the moon when they offered me the job.
I’ve now been in post a month and when friends and family ask how it’s going I usually say “it’s good, but hard”. In a way it’s exactly what I expected but also so much more. I now have a small and growing caseload of “my mums” and getting to know each of them and their stories is emotionally tough.
I think about them often and know I’ll never forget them. I don’t think you have to have personally experienced cancer to imagine how difficult it must be to cope with that diagnosis and treatment either during pregnancy and/or while caring for a young baby and often other children too. We also now have the added impact of delays caused by COVID-19. It is so hard to hear stories of delays in diagnosis due to the pandemic, symptoms being wrongly attributed to pregnancy or other health conditions, and women’s health deteriorating as a result. I can only imagine how hard it is to actually be living through this. Hearing our mums experiences makes me feel sad and angry at the same time, and although perhaps my feelings are understandable, I know that this reaction wouldn’t be helpful. So instead, I try to focus on is what I can do to help and alleviate some of the emotional and financial burden that families can experience during this time.
I thought I had a good understanding of the support Mummy’s Star offers but it is far more than I ever realised. I have been so impressed by the speed at which we can provide grants to mums.
Since joining the charity on the 1st April I have organised for grants to be paid to 3 mums who were delighted to receive this support and told me just how much this money will help with things like counselling sessions, loss of earnings, family days out and upcoming first birthday celebrations. Contacting women to say their grant has been approved has been one of the highlights of the last four weeks. In addition to this financial support, I have also been able to add women to our private Facebook support group which enables peer support and reduces feelings of isolation and have regular check-ins with the mums in my case load, this allows me to continue building relationships and tailor the ongoing support if their circumstances and needs change.
I have a lot to learn as a support worker, thankfully I have brilliant colleagues to learn from. I am learning how to take the lead from women and find out where they’re at before suggesting ways we could offer support. I am also learning how to manage my own emotions, it’s not about me, but it is about empathising, sharing my experiences where appropriate and doing the best I can to offer information and support, and being honest when I really don’t know the answers. And finally making sure I keep myself informed about other helpful resources, charities and organisations I can signpost people to.
I’m now planning this year’s birthday running challenge. Why? Because selfishly it helps keep me motivated and I know running is good for my physical and mental health. But I also now fully understand the support Mummy’s Star offer and how much it means. I want to raise as much money and awareness as I can so we can offer support to every women and family who need it.