Tonia is an Area Centre Manager at Big C. She is based in King’s Lynn but works across all of our Support and Information Centres. We welcome Tonia to the blog this week to share her experiences of working in the Centres and give a sneak peek into what a typical day looks like.
I started working for Big C back in October 2012 and was lucky enough to be involved in the opening and development of Big C’s King’s Lynn Centre. Since then, the Centre has gone from strength to strength. Currently we have three full-time staff members and 10 amazing volunteers.
On a typical day I arrive at the Centre at 8.45am after dropping off my two boys at school.
It’s then straight in, busying ourselves with messages from the answer machine, checking the diary to prepare for the day ahead, setting up rooms for support groups, emptying the dishwasher and stocking up on refreshments, not forgetting the biscuits!
Following on from that we have a 15 minute staff debrief to handover information for the day ahead.
At 9:30am the Centre opens. On a busy day we can see anywhere up to 40 people, depending on what groups, services and meetings are taking place.
One of our largest support groups is The Kingsmen Prostate group who have over 40 members and on average have 15 gents attend each month.
At times we support people from the point of their diagnosis through into survivorship and often get to know the whole family.
I always feel very privileged to be part of a family’s support network, at a time when people are most vulnerable.
Building supportive relationships is key in the Centres. It is important to gain trust and spend time with our service users to gain a full picture, this then helps us to tailor the best support for them.
Often what appears to be someone’s upmost concern is not and their true concern is one of a more practical nature, such as who will walk my dog following surgery?
Our Centres are in the community and offer a drop-in service to the public every day, which makes everyday different and often brings many unexpected questions.
Our services include the running of many different workshops and sessions. One of my favourite session is our Headwear Options. Some people will come to us very upset about hair loss and it can be an emotional time. What’s rewarding is when we can help to ease some of the distress by finding them a scarf or hat that suits them and makes them feel more comfortable. At the end of the session we’re often saying goodbye to a different person to the one that walked in – one who has gained a little more confidence.
I reflect on a time when my family and I would have been service users at Big C, I know without any doubt that we would have loved to have such a valuable place to visit and the difference it could have made to us all.
It’s this which ignites my passion to create a safe, friendly, inclusive and supportive environment for people to use, as I know the difference it does and can make to local people.
Some days people can be very distressed and upset, during these times we know that listening is the best skill we have and that even in the saddest times this can be invaluable to the individual.
Sometimes there is nothing we can say to make things better, however giving someone the time to be able to just share their distress can help the person to work through their fears or loss without the worry of causing upset to a family member or friend.
Equally many days are filled with laughter and happier times, including when service users share good news about their health. We never tire of hearing about people receiving good news and this creates such a positive feeling in the Centre.
Our service users also get to know each other and often form friendships and peer support groups which is lovely to see.
While there are so many positives about working at a Big C Centre, my favourite thing is the people. From my team of staff and volunteers to the inspiring people who visit us, every day I get a sense of achievement and feel pride to be working for such a fantastic charity. I’m part of a Support and Information Centre that truly makes a difference to local people.
We are currently looking for volunteers to help at all of our Support and Information Centres – so if you think you’d like to join one of our teams, you can apply online here.
For more details about Big C’s Cancer Support and Information, click here.