CARE GIVER: Val Russell-Wilson, volunteering at the oncology unit with client Alice Smith; and receiving her award from Barbara Hovard, Deputy Chair of Wide Bay Hospital & Health Service Board.
CARE GIVER: Val Russell-Wilson, volunteering at the oncology unit with client Alice Smith; and receiving her award from Barbara Hovard, Deputy Chair of Wide Bay Hospital & Health Service Board. Alistair Brightman

Val surprised at award for doing what she loves

"I FEEL a bit selfish because I only do what I love," winner of the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Australia Day Award, Val Russell-Wilson, said.

The award was for Val's dedication and compassion as a Cancer Care volunteer for the past 26 years.

"I don't like awards, I think a lot of people deserve them," she said.

She was first "thrown in the deep end" when a nurse contacted her to fill in for the only two elderly cancer care volunteers who were away sick.

"It was those volunteers who helped me through my own battle," Val said.

A breast cancer survivor herself, Val was diagnosed in 1988 and endured chemotherapy and radiation wondering if she would make it through.

"I had five children and my youngest was three at the time - it was hard but somehow we got through it all.

"I am now here to help others, I know they can get through the hard times."

 

Val Russell-Wilson - volunteer at the Oncology Unit with client Alice Smith.
Val Russell-Wilson - volunteer at the Oncology Unit with client Alice Smith. Alistair Brightman

Val said her first few times offering support were random calls to help.

"I eventually did the training through The Cancer Council.

"Back then we would see patients at the hospital then later in their home.

"These days everything needs to be over the phone - I found it hard to talk to people that way and I have since given that away.

"But I am still doing everything else with the council."

Val volunteers three days a week - the oncology unit at Hervey Bay on Tuesdays, Palliative Care ward in Maryborough on Wednesday and Supportive Therapies in Maryborough on Fridays.

"I volunteer at the oncology unit in the Bay supporting the patients and serve cups of tea," she said.

"I find people find it easy to talk to me and nurses tell me of patients who ask for me when I am not there.

"I have built many friendships, have a joke and keep them smiling.

"I just love helping, even if its just five minutes to put a bit of light in their day at chemo - because chemo is not the nicest thing to have."

 

 

Val Russell-Wilson and Cancer Council Queensland Community Support Coordinator Jill Chegwidden
Val Russell-Wilson and Cancer Council Queensland Community Support Coordinator Jill Chegwidden

The 73 year old, who offers an ear and a shoulder, also volunteered with Fraser Coast Palliative Care in the late '80s and early '90s.

"I worked with pal care when it first started with Alan Holmes.

"I did pal care in the home and they trained me for 12 weeks - I loved that too.

"I could do that during the day while my kids were at school.

"I would help out especially while clients' loved ones would go get groceries, have a break or even just to sleep."

Val said during her breast cancer treatments and receiving the support, she always thought this would be a great thing to do.

"I appreciated what these ladies did and it was always in the back of my mind I said I wouldn't mind doing this when the kids grow up - helping people and knowing such a help it was."

Val is a mentor for new helpers and said you can never have too many volunteers.

Volunteers are always needed.

For more information phone Cancer Council Qld on 131120, email volunteer@cancerqld.org.au or visit cancerqld.org.au.


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