Volunteer carer appeals for cancer charity support

Volunteer Shona MacKenzie, left, has been supporting Marie Purves. Picture: Paul McSherry

Volunteer Shona MacKenzie, left, has been supporting Marie Purves. Picture: Paul McSherry

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A BIG-hearted volunteer who lost her mother to cancer is urging people to join a support scheme to help those battling the disease.

Shona MacKenzie, 44, is a member of the Macmillan Helping Matters service, which provides practical and emotional support to people across Edinburgh and West Lothian after their diagnosis.

All you need is a couple of hours a week. Sometimes all they need is befriending

Shona MacKenzie

The charity has been taking referrals for under two years and is looking to expand its services, particularly in West Lothian where there is a volunteer shortage.

Shona, who learned of the initiative through a friend, said she had been inspired to get involved after losing her mother, Moira Donald, who died at the age of 62.

She said: “Because I lost my mum to cancer when I was 21, it was something close to my heart.

“The idea of going out to people’s houses and helping them was something that really struck a chord with me.

“When my mum was diagnosed with cancer in 1991 there were no projects like this, certainly not on the island of Bute [where she then lived] and we were relying on friends.”

She works as a child minder but keeps every Tuesday morning free for volunteering and has so far worked with three different families.

At present, people are referred to the service mainly from hospital, but it is hoped GPs will soon have the power.

However, in order to do this the service needs committed volunteers on board who are able to devote two to three hours a week of their time for at least a year.

Shona said: “You don’t need a qualification to do this, just a day’s training. Some of these people have nobody and all you need to do is give a couple of hours a week.

“Sometimes all they need is befriending and emotional support. They might be awaiting surgery or going through treatment. Some of them might be alone, or scared.”

Among those Shona has helped is 77-year-old grandmother Marie Purves, of Linlithgow Bridge, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in January.

She said: “It was really lovely having Shona here as I could talk to her about things I couldn’t speak to my family about.

“I’m really happy with the help I have been given. I really appreciate it.”

Volunteers can be expected to do anything from light housework such as washing and ironing to gardening and simply keeping a cancer sufferer company and making them feel supported.

A Macmillan spokeswoman said: “These roles require just two or three hours a week and can make a huge difference to people and their families at a time of great uncertainty in their lives.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com