Friday, 16 January 2015

CRUK Volunteer Showcase - Elizabeth Bailey

Elizabeth Andrews once said "Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they have the heart"

It's almost like this quote was written with Elizabeth Bailey in mind. Elizabeth is one of the most incredible people I have ever come across. A breast cancer survivor, she is super intelligent, courageous and highly motivated. A busy wife and mum to two beautiful little girls, she left her civil service career behind to pursue postgraduate study and do some incredible work on cancer prevention and awareness on her local area of Luton. She is also a very passionate CRUK Ambassador and works with Relay for Life. Elizabeth is a huge inspiration to me; her own huge life changes helped inspired mine last year and she continues to inspire, and support, me on a daily basis. 

Elizabeth, I'm hugely honoured to count you as a friend and share your showcase today!!  

What made you decide to volunteer for CRUK?

I have written for this blog before, so some readers may have a dim and distant memory of my experience of being diagnosed breast cancer in 2010, and the overtaking fear that I might not see my little daughters grow up.

I had extensive surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment and the whole experience was completely life changing.  I have since undertaken a major career change, for one thing.  I have volunteered before for another charity, but even before my diagnosis I had been a long term supporter of the CRUK, in terms of doing things like Race for Life regularly.  At the end of my treatment, the urge to ‘do something’ became almost overwhelming.  It was the most positive sort of anger, if that makes sense.

What sort of things do you do for the charity?

I do two main things.  Locally, I am on the committee of the fundraising event Relay for Life, which is an annual 24-hour walking relay which honours cancer survivors and remembers those we have lost.  I am Cancer Awareness Chair, so my job is to ensure that educating people about the signs and symptoms of cancer is threaded through all of our fundraising activities.

I am also a Campaigns Ambassador for CRUK, which is a political campaigning role.  This work is hugely varied.  I have written blogs, made videos, spoken at events, lobbied the House of Lords and liaise regularly with my two local MPs, for example. It is tremendously interesting.

What are your favourite aspects of volunteering for the

I have made some extraordinarily good friends, seriously, many of whom I can turn to for support, ideas and just a good laugh. I do like making a political difference, but at heart, this is about having an impact on other people, and the closest relationships you build are often the most life-affirming.  I have also been able to see my own experience in perspective, not least as I have met people who have had far bigger challenges on their hands.  It’s all relative, but I have met and made friends with some real heroes and heroines.

Do you have any future volunteering plans?

I would like to carry on with the Ambassador and Relay roles for now.  I am currently taking a semi career break and undertaking postgraduate study, but if or when I go back to working full time I would quite like to try my hand at organising a large-scale fundraising event as I have seen what has been achieved by some fellow Ambassadors and I’m impressed!  I’ll probably been waiting until I finish my PhD, though.

What advice would you give anyone considering volunteering
for CRUK?

CRUK is a really well managed organisation and as a volunteer for them you will get a really good deal. 

You might think this is an odd thing to say if what you want to do is honour the memory of your aunt by giving, or whatever.  I’d say, don’t be shy about using it to get work experience or just try your hand at something new.  It’s a two-way street and you will be valued and nurtured. 

There is such a huge range of things to do, including working in retail, marshalling or helping set up large outdoor events, event organising or political lobbying, like I do. CRUK’s publicity effort also relies strongly on people just willing to tell their own cancer stories.  You can give as little or as much time as you like. I promise you, the rewards can be enormous. And of course, volunteering helps us to beat cancer sooner, so I would really recommend taking a look:

Back to my story, I’d like everyone to know that a recent set of tests showed no evidence of cancer recurrence at all, so after five years, it is likely that I will be discharged from the annual appointments round once and for all in a few months’ time.   There are more and more happy cancer stories like mine thanks to CRUK, which, don’t forget, is dependent on the kindness and generosity of you all.

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