Volunteers’ Week 2023: Reading hospice volunteer shares his story

Categories: People & Places.

This Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), a man from Reading is sharing his experience of volunteering for the hospice which has supported him since he had a total laryngectomy in 2014.

“I’d been having some problems with my throat for a few months and eventually I was diagnosed with cancer at the back of my throat and top of my oesophagus,” explains Mike Gough, 77, who lives in Three Mile Cross.

“Unfortunately, intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy didn’t work, so I had to have a total laryngectomy, which is an operation to remove all of the voicebox.”

After the operation, Mike was referred by the hospital to the lymphoedema team at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading for physiotherapy to help him manage some of the swelling which was impacting his speech and ability to swallow.

“A lot has changed in my life, but Fiona, the physiotherapist at the hospice, has been amazing in supporting my recovery and rehabilitation over the last few years.

“I have learned massage and exercise techniques, and I have also been able to have treatments with the complementary therapists which has supported me not just physically but mentally too.”

After receiving care from the Sue Ryder hospice for more than eight years, Mike decided he wanted to give back and signed up to become a volunteer driver in 2022.

“I’ve never been one for just sitting around and I have always enjoyed meeting other people and talking to them, so this role is perfect for me,” he said.

“I spend a few hours a week picking up patients from their homes and driving them to the hospice so they can attend day services sessions or vital outpatient appointments, which provide much-needed support, care and symptom management.

“Without volunteer drivers, these people would have no other way of getting to the hospice so it’s a really important service which makes a big difference.”

The day services sessions in Reading and Newbury not only provide social opportunities for patients with fun and interesting activities and groups, but also access to a team of specialists, including Sue Ryder Nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, complementary therapists and family support, who deliver personal and coordinated care at the outpatient clinics.

“I think if you have the spare time, then becoming a volunteer driver is a great thing to do. You have the opportunity to meet new people, get out of the house, and have a sense of satisfaction that you’re doing something to help other people.

“For me, having a stoma can be difficult at times, but it doesn’t hold me back. The Sue Ryder team are so supportive and guide you every step of the way. I would recommend volunteering to anyone.”

Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice is currently recruiting volunteer drivers in Reading and Newbury.

Amanda Dean, Volunteer Coordinator, said: “We are so grateful to Mike and all our volunteers who donate their time as drivers – they help so many of our patients to attend our day services and outpatient clinics.

“However, we are in need of more wonderful individuals. That is why we are asking those who can, to consider becoming volunteer drivers. Without this service, some patients wouldn’t be able to socialise and leave their homes and access our specialist services and support.”

Volunteer drivers must have their own vehicle and a valid clean driving license. Full training will be provided and fuel expenses will be covered by Sue Ryder.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer driver for Sue Ryder, visit www.sueryder.org/volunteer or email Volunteer Coordinator Amanda Dean at amanda.dean@sueryder.org.



About Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice:

Through Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading and our outpatient clinics in Newbury and Wokingham and community services, we provide expert palliative care and support for people across Reading and Berkshire who are living with a life-limiting condition, as well as supporting their families. 

Our inpatient unit provides round-the-clock assessment and specialist care to help manage patients’ symptoms. In addition to our inpatient unit, our day services help people living with long-term conditions, and our community service provides care for people who prefer to receive palliative care at home.

Our expert team includes doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, physiotherapists, occupational and complementary therapists, social workers and bereavement support workers. They all work seamlessly together to support people through the most difficult times of their lives.   


About Sue Ryder

 Sue Ryder supports people through the most difficult times of their lives. Whether that’s a terminal illness, the loss of a loved one or a neurological condition – we’re there when it matters.

For over 65 years our doctors, nurses and carers have given people the compassion and expert care they need to help them live the best life they possibly can.

In order to continue to provide and develop our services and expert care we rely predominantly on income from our charity shops, fundraising activities, and donations from members of the public.

 For more information please visit www.sueryder.org

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