Iain Kerr, awareness volunteer Scotland
"I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in January 2014. At first it was a bombshell – I was all over the place. However, within a few days I made the personal decision to fight this disease, face the future positively, and use whatever time I had for others.
"Following treatment from a wonderful colorectal team in NHS Scotland, I took the advice from my surgeon to support other patients and people in similar circumstances. By chance I saw an advert in my local paper from Bowel Cancer UK, who were looking for volunteers in my local area. I subsequently attended a volunteer induction day where I was trained to deliver bowel cancer awareness talks aimed at helping people to be healthy and, most importantly, take part in screening.
"I so enjoy going out to workplaces and community groups to meet people, share the knowledge I have gained, and hopefully influence people to care for themselves and others. I often say in my talks that “if by doing this I save one life then it is worth every effort”.
"Being a volunteer with Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer is such a positive experience. You are made to feel part of a team striving to make a difference and ultimately save lives."
David McCarter, 61, volunteer Northern Ireland
"I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at 57. It was caught early - initially my doctors thought it was stage 2 but it turned out to be stage 1. I had surgery in 2015 which resulted in a permanent stoma. I know if I’d ignored symptoms and hadn’t been diagnosed early, things could have turned out differently. After visiting the Bowel Cancer UK website, I learned how sharing my experience could help others.
"I’ve been volunteering for the charity for just over a year now. I presented my first health awareness talk recently with another coming soon. I was nervous to start with, but it got easier as it went on. I have also shared my story and journey to an audience of people who had recently gone through bowel surgery. They really appreciated hearing from someone who had been through what they were presently experiencing and I was pleased to tell them that I continue to live a healthy active life.
"The team at Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer have kept me up to date on what’s coming up in Northern Ireland. I volunteered at a sponsored walk at the end of last year and I’m also a member of the charity’s Lay Review Panel. For me it’s very rewarding that I may be able to help even one other person, by raising awareness of symptoms and encouraging them to visit their GP if they’re worried."
Rebecca, 53, office volunteer London
"I’ve been volunteering in the London office doing admin one day a week, for about three months. I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in 2015. After my diagnosis, I discovered Bowel Cancer UK and their Twitter page which had loads of supportive information. This was so valuable to me during surgery and chemotherapy, and certainly inspired me to give something back.
"By chance, after my chemo had finished and I was returning to life and work, I saw a tweet about applying to volunteer to deliver awareness training. I really wanted to support the charity and this seemed like an exciting opportunity for me to do something practical.
"Since having my training I’ve done two health promotion awareness talks and hope to do more in the future. The talks are rewarding as you see the audience really listens and they’re responsive to what you are saying. They are such a valuable opportunity to tell people about bowel cancer and encourage them to look out for symptoms, take part in screening or visit their GP for advice.
"I also joined at a cheer point for the London Marathon this year and will be cheering on at Ride London next month. I like to support where I can!
"I’m very happy to be a volunteer for Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer - it’s motivating to see the success of the charity and know they are doing a good job, and it’s fulfilling to be a part of that."
Neil Barker, 55, health promotion volunteer
"Volunteering for Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer is something very personal to me - I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2003 and I lost my dad to bowel cancer eight years ago. I hadn’t heard of the charity until last year and the first event I was involved in was the charity’s carol concert.
"I’m passionate about healthcare and I have a communication and training background, so the health promotion awareness talks are something that really appealed to me. I’ve now done two local talks in Oakham and Stevenage. The talks are great for increasing awareness and you can tell that the audience is engaged and it strikes a chord with them by the questions they ask.
"That ‘lightbulb’ moment makes it all worthwhile! I want to keep raising awareness of bowel cancer symptoms, healthy lifestyle and taking up screening – these are positive messages that need to be spread. It might just save a life!"