Volunteer: How I’m helping others end cancer

One early Friday morning in August 2017, my wife Sandra and I showed up to MD Anderson in Katy for her very first day of breast cancer treatment. Needless to say, this was not one of our better days.

Her oncologist, Dr. Nikesh Jasani, had recommended that she start chemotherapy to shrink the tumor in her right breast before surgery. We were both rife with apprehension as we sat in the clinic waiting for her name to be called so she could undergo something we knew absolutely nothing about.

We spotted a gentleman who appeared so upbeat and jovial, as if he did not have a worry in the world. He sat right next to us and started a conversation. Within minutes, the three of us were laughing and talking as if we had known each other for years. It turns out that this gentleman, Browning “Brownie” Sinclair, is an MD Anderson volunteer.

Brownie explained to Sandra and me about his volunteer duties, and I said, “Sounds like something I can do!” Without hesitation, he whipped out a business card for MD Anderson’s Volunteer Services and Merchandising department. Within a couple of days, I applied for a volunteer position.

Helping others as we’ve been helped

Now I spend one day a week doing for others what Brownie has done for Sandra and me. I’m a prostate cancer survivor myself, so I’m well aware of the challenges of cancer. However, volunteering opened my eyes even wider. It’s helped me realize that even though our journeys are unique, we often share the same struggles.

As a volunteer, I enjoy sharing my experiences as both a survivor and caregiver with others, and I like to offer advice on how to handle the challenges in both roles. Sometimes, there are patients who are despondent, and they just need a good laugh or a good, strong and encouraging conversation. That happens to be one of my strong points. I love talking with people, especially if I can put a smile on their faces.

Dedicating more time to a special place

In my short time volunteering, I’ve witnessed first-hand the amazing care that MD Anderson’s staff delivers. The nurses and doctors treat their patients as if they’re close family members. They have a passion for what they do, and they will do everything to see their patients overcome cancer. That is special.

I’m hoping that once my wife completes her breast cancer treatment, I’ll be able to dedicate a second weekday to MD Anderson’s mission. I may not get compensated monetarily for my duties here, but I receive payment in so many other ways. One of them is watching patients ring the bell after their final treatment — that fills my heart with indescribable joy. Every time I see a patient win the fight, I think of MD Anderson’s logo and envision that red line being drawn through cancer’s name. I just love it.

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