I work on Macmillan's Online Community where people talk about cancer. And I love it.
"I could never do that", is the most common response when I say I work for Macmillan Cancer Support and speak to people affected by cancer every day. Why would you like to work with such sad (some might say depressing) subject matter?
I'm going to share the reasons I love coming into work and find each day meaningful.
I am making a difference
Many people aren't familiar with the term 'Online Community', which is essentially a peer support forum where people can ask questions, get answers, support and advice. My job involves enabling members to get the support they need from one another, in a safe and effective way online. The forum is made up of groups for people with different types of cancer, groups for those with incurable cancer, groups for those bereaved by cancer amongst many others - over a hundred in total.
I take a lot of comfort in knowing that what I'm doing has a positive impact on someone. The community is a lifeline for so many at a really tough time in their lives. When someone or their loved one is diagnosed with cancer, they have so many worries running through their head and often don't know where to turn. The community is a place to go, and reach out to others who might be able to help.
Every day, I'm inspired to see our members cope with such strength when faced with adversity in their lives. I find other's lives fascinating and make an effort to recognise all the familiar faces (usernames) on the community and their life stories.
As well as my day job, I also volunteer an evening each week speaking to people on our support line. Quite frankly, I enjoy the feel good factor when I've helped someone wrap their head around the maze of the social care system, or when I've empowered someone to go back to their doctor after saying they don't want to 'bother' them.
My job has made me think differently about how much I value my family and friends, and how fortunate I am.
I'm challenged daily
As an employee, I've been able to focus on my strengths and also build up skills which I want to learn. I work with nurses and other experts who I am continually learning from, as well as learning from the vast amount of content posted by members each day, colleagues, and other charities.
I also work closely with our remote volunteer members, 'Community Champions', who welcome new members and support them through their cancer diagnoses after having their own cancer experience. I organise meet ups with them throughout the year, give them training, emotional support and encouragement.
I feel valued
Macmillan truly prioritises the wellbeing of its employees and I feel valued - I'm offered debriefing sessions to talk through anything which may have affected me and we are encouraged to socialise regularly together at work as well as given opportunities to volunteer.
It's not sad every day
The content on the community can be extremely difficult to read at times, but life isn't black and white, or sad and happy. There's as much positivity, hope, friendship and laughter as the sad stuff.
It can be hard to read members' stories when they are going through an awful time, or have lost a loved one, but it's so uplifting to see someone getting support from others through the forum.
It makes it all worthwhile when a member shares their experience of using the community, so here's some words from one member summing up what the community means to them.
"During [my time on the community] I have made many friends who walked the road alongside me. These are the people who saved my sanity and propped me up when I was close to giving up. We have cried together and occasionally laughed together but we are always there for one another."
This Cancer Talk Week Macmillan is urging lonely cancer patients to visit its refreshed Online Community, a forum for sharing cancer experiences, asking questions and supporting other people affected by cancer, available 24/7, 365 days of the year.
The Online Community, home to more than 95,000 registered members, can be found at
http://community.macmillan.org.uk/Suggest a correction