“I started volunteering when I came back from America. We had lived in Chicago for two years and I had done some volunteering at a school there, mainly as a way of meeting people. Just before we had moved there though, my mum had been diagnosed with cancer, and we had such a positive experience with the Macmillan nurses that the idea of volunteering at a hospice was in the back of my mind.
I had already done some work in the past at St Michael’s Hospice in Basingstoke, as a wheelchair service Occupational Therapist, so when we moved back to the UK volunteering in hospice care seemed like the right thing to do.”
Polly contacted Julia Morpeth, Voluntary Services Manager at Phyllis Tuckwell, who showed her a long list of vacancies.
“I told her I would do anything, but I knew I wanted to have contact with patients and, when we got chatting, helping with Occupational Therapies seemed like the best route to go down.”
Polly started helping out at the hospice’s relaxation group session – setting up the room, bringing the patients in when they were ready and staying there throughout the sessions, helping the OTs. She has also helped with the weekly physiotherapy exercise group which helps patients strengthen their muscles and build their stamina, which many find their illness and also often their treatment impact on.
As well as helping patients grow in confidence and retain their independence, the sessions have also brought together a group of people who previously did not know each other, but who have now formed a very strong friendship, supporting each other through their illnesses and treatment.
“I really enjoy the interaction with everyone I come into contact with – from the patients and staff, to the volunteer drivers who bring the patients to the group every week.
I do not do it because I feel I ought to or because it is for a good cause – I do it because I want to. Sometimes I think I look forward to the weekly sessions more than the patients themselves do!”
As well as volunteering for Phyllis Tuckwell, Polly has also run the 2016 London Marathon to raise money to help support its care. “This was my third marathon, and my last!”
Polly first ran the London marathon seven years ago, then three years ago completed the Brighton marathon. When she applied to run in London again in 2016 she did not manage to get a ballot place, so instead registered through Phyllis Tuckwell.
“Once I had my place, it made sense. I realised that actually I wanted to raise money for something I felt passionate about, and that something is Phyllis Tuckwell.
Polly found the support from patients at the exercise group immensely motivating. Just as they helped each other through their treatment, so they helped Polly through her training, asking her at each session how it was going and how she was progressing.
“When I found the training tough, I would just think about our patients’ situations and how much they have to deal with on a daily basis. It put things into perspective.”
For more information visit Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care