Volunteering taught me how to care for patients during cancer treatment

When my parents were undergoing cancer treatment in the 1980s and early 2000s, I didn’t know how to help them cope with their diagnoses. I was so overwhelmed with the medical aspects of their treatment that it never occurred to me that I should be also focusing on the little things that could make life easier for them. So six years ago, I decided to volunteer as a tribute to them. I applied to volunteer at MD Anderson because I knew they treated cancer. I had no idea that I was going to become part of such an extensive support system for patients and caregivers. Joining MD Anderson as a volunteer During orientation, I learned all the different ways MD Anderson can help patients beyond treatment: the educational pamphlets in waiting areas and The Learning Center, the Integrative Medicine Center, the social work counselors and the support groups, to name a few. And then of course there’s us, the volunteers. Before I donned my blue jacket, I thought volunteers only fielded phone calls and sat behind welcome desks. I didn’t realize that at MD Anderson, they also visit patients in the hospital, serve beverages and snacks, offer complimentary scarves to patients and much more. When I volunteered at the Endoscopy Center in MD Anderson’s Main Building, I helped prepare exam rooms and provided support to staff as needed. Even though I didn’t work directly with patients, my responsibilities allowed nurses to spend more time with them. Now I volunteer twice a week at MD Anderson in Bay Area. The move not only shortened my commute to just 10 minutes,...