FOR many people the arrival of retirement heralds a good opportunity to sit back and enjoy a well-earned rest.
But when Ruby Wood’s time came she didn’t want to put her feet up – so she decided to give something back.
Fast forward 20 years and the 78-year-old is now the second-longest serving volunteer at Maggie’s Edinburgh, a centre which offers vital emotional and practical support to those affected by cancer.
Now Ruby, who lives in Trinity, is backing the News’ Buy A Brick campaign, which aims to raise cash for a £1.2 million extension that will enable the Edinburgh centre to help an additional 5000 patients a year.
Volunteering at Maggie’s felt like a “natural” fit for Ruby, whose very first job at 15 involved secretarial work for the mammography department of the old Royal Infirmary.
This led to a long career at the Edinburgh Breast Unit, situated in the oncology block of the Western General, just a stone’s throw from the Maggie’s centre where Ruby now volunteers two days a week.
She said: “Days have changed over the years as we’ve got busier and added new courses. It’s really quite different now from what it used to be because we’ve got so busy.
“I used to be a meet and greet person, which is very important because the step over the doorway is the hardest thing the patients will ever have to do. I now do the stats for the centre.”
Ruth forms part of a team of around 25 volunteers who work with staff at the centre to help patients and their families throughout their treatment journey.
She said: “It’s a wonderful place – it’s quite a humbling experience.
“You hear people laughing and you think I could never be as brave as this. They laugh, they joke, they are talking about going on holiday next year. It’s remarkable and you go out feeling quite humbled.
“It’s lovely just meeting the people and making it a pleasurable visit when they come in, keeping it all bright and cheery. I just love it.”
The Edinburgh centre was established in memory of landscape architect Maggie Keswick Jencks, who was inspired to act after being left to deal with the devastating news that she had terminal breast cancer in a hospital corridor.
Maggie was later treated by the charity’s now chief executive Laura Lee – an oncology nurse at the Western General at the time – who Ruby also came across during her working life at the hospital.
Now the News has teamed up with fundraiser Lisa Stephenson for the campaign, with plans for the centre’s expansion including the creation of three new therapy rooms and extensions to the gardens.
Ruby said she was blown away by how supportive the public had been of the appeal, adding the extra space would be hugely helpful for both patients and staff.
She said: “There’s so much more the staff could do in courses if we had the space.
“People are very kind, very generous but you’ve got to keep at it. It’s such a wonderful place.”
For more information, or to donate, visit lisasbuyabrickformaggies.com.