Like many other people diagnosed with cancer, 50 year old Jenny Coleman from Greenhithe was feeling the effects of isolation as a result of her illness.
“All I had were the four walls of my house and I wasn’t having a conversation with anybody.”
Jenny was referred to Involve’s Cancer Support Volunteer Service to help give her the support that was missing, through the help of volunteers.
“Jane (Involve Cancer Support Volunteer Service West Kent’s Project Coordinator) came and had a chat with me and as she talked to me she said she knew who she’d put me with. She knew straight away which is really good because it is a bit of a gamble.”
Jenny was put in contact with Involve Cancer Support Volunteer Julie Row as Jane thought the two would be a good match being the same age and similar personality traits.
Jenny states, “You’re not sure if the personalities are going to match but we gelled instantly. I do as I’m told. We’re adventurous, we give everything a go.
“When you’re not part of the world you don’t have anything to talk about so it’s nice having Julie come in because we find things to talk about because we go out and do new things. We’re from the same generation, we have things in common that we remembered.”
After meeting regularly, the two went for their outdoors trip to Whitstable. Jenny recalls, “Julie was thrown in the deep end because she hadn’t used the wheelchair before and we decided to go to Whitstable on a blistery, incredibly rainy October afternoon.
“I’ve gained so much. I’ve gained a new friend, a new chum. I’m getting out, being part of the world, not so isolated, not so down, not so depressed because I was getting depressed over it. Being part of the community again. For example, with the Whitstable trip, I thought I’d never go there again, so that word ‘never’ is getting used less.
“When you’re told it is terminal, you know your life is over but you’re not ready for your life to be over. You want to do normal things and you still want to achieve things you wanted to achieve and have some sort of normality. So you don’t want it to be over completely in the sense that you can’t go out and live a normal life, and if it wasn’t for Julie I wouldn't be able to do that.
“I think it’s a fantastic scheme because there are so many people who are trapped and isolated and people who, like myself, don’t have relatives or friends nearby, so you don’t have them to call upon and if others find that this facility is there, then people won’t feel so lonely and so isolated if they can find a perfect match as well.”
Julie has also gained much since volunteering for Involve’s Cancer Support service, “for me, I just find it really rewarding because I just love helping people, I know that sounds a bit of a cliché, but that’s what I'm always doing. I just think it’s unfair that some people are isolated so if I can drag someone out, whether they're kicking and screaming or not, I’ll do it.”