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"It lifts you... You feel like the people here are really helping to make a difference" – Debbie's story

One in two people are currently facing a cancer diagnosis – Debbie Mallaband shares how the impact of going through treatment also changes the lives of family members and loved ones.

Debbie Mallaband’s husband Andy passed away aged 59 in 2017, having been diagnosed with throat cancer. The couple were supported by Weston Park Cancer Charity and the Cancer Support Centre throughout his treatment – something which inspired Debbie to do whatever she could to help the charity.

Debbie is now often the first face people see as they enter the Charity Hub, based at Weston Park Hospital, but as well as providing a warm welcome she’s become a committed member of the team.

Debbie, 67, said: “My husband had throat cancer and so we used to come regularly for treatment. The staff in every department were absolutely amazing while he went through what was a really gruelling time.

“I nursed him at home for a while, but eventually he had to come back in when things weren’t good. We told our GP that the only place he wanted to go was Weston Park.

“Once on the ward, the staff assured me that I could stay with my husband. At that point, it was clear that it was end-of-life. They couldn’t do enough, everyone was amazing right to the very end.

“It was then that I said I had to do something to repay them. I started doing some fundraising and collecting, getting a bit of money together. I went down to the Cancer Support Centre and had a chat with a lady, just saying that I really wanted to help and could do volunteering of any kind.

“I passed my DBS check and mandatory training, then Covid slowed everything down. But the staff did keep in touch, and said as soon as we could get back in, they’d be wanting me.

“It felt so good that people actually wanted my help.”

Debbie was drafted in to help with the post-pandemic Christmas effort in late 2022, wrapping gifts for patients and sending Christmas cards from the Cancer Support Centre.

She’s also represented the charity at events including BB With Love’s Simply the Best – a star-studded night which last year raised more than £62,000 towards cancer support, research and treatment – and fundraising events.

Her main job, one day a week, is on the Charity Hub’s front desk – greeting patients who have signed up to free transport to and from appointments, helping them find their way around, and supporting charity staff.

Debbie said having gone through the treatment journey with her husband, she’s able to empathise with those living with or beyond cancer, adding:

“It just feels comfortable. Everyone working for the charity is a certain type of person, they can’t do enough for people who come through the doors.
“It’s good when you speak to people and they say they’re getting through it. There’s always a lovely feeling about the centre – it lifts you when you feel like the people here are really helping to make a difference.
“It’s all really beneficial for the patients coming in, speaking from experience.
“I know whatever I do, I will never be able to repay everyone for the treatment my husband got right to the end.”

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