VOLUNTARY NORFOLK MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN 2017 CAMPAIGN: Star Throwers volunteers are stars to those with cancer
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
As part of our support of the Voluntary Norfolk Make a Difference in 2017 campaign, the EDP and its sister publications across the region are shining a light on voluntary groups and individuals. Reporter STUART ANDERSON spoke to some of the team at cancer support charity Star Throwers.
Being told you have cancer can feel like being thrown into the middle of an ocean in the middle of a storm.
But luckily there are groups like Star Throwers who are there to pull you out, put a blanket over your shoulders and give you a warm hug.
The Wymondham-based charity is there to help cancer sufferers who feel like they have nowhere else to go.
About 40 volunteers regularly visit Star Throwers' Melton Road centre. There are scores more occasional volunteers and dedicated fund-raisers.
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One of the centre's best-known faces is Maureen Walters, who has been volunteering at the centre since it was founded by Dr Henry Mannings in 2009.
Mrs Walters, 79, from Tacolneston, said Dr Mannings had once been her own doctor and had also helped her husband after he was diagnosed with cancer.
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Mrs Walters said: 'My husband did what he was told and is now fit and well. I have faith in Dr Mannings and what he did.'
Mrs Walters visits several times a week to run groups including a knitting circle. She also helps decorate the centre and keep it in good running order.
She said: 'I love to see how the patients benefit from the therapy they get here.
'It's an emotional job and you get attached to the patients.
'They're all so lovely and I'm amazed at how brave some of them are.'
The charity also runs groups, including crafting and yoga.
But one of the main reasons cancer suffers visit the centre is for information and advice.
Steven Ho, general manager, said just knowing more about cancer could help boost sufferers' chances of getting through it.
Mr Ho said: 'Studies have shown that the more information the patients have, the more likely they are to survive longer.
'We're here to help patients navigate their journey and make the big decisions.'
A volunteer who helps patients stay informed is Sunder Rao Bethapudy.
Mr Bethapudy, 75, from Eaton, said: 'The patients' time is very much limited with the consultants in the hospital. Sometimes they come out only understanding half of what is said.
'So I explain to them what exactly it was, what exactly is chemotherapy, what to expect after chemotherapy and if there are any problems when to contact the doctors.
'All these things are giving power to the patients because they're more knowledgeable.
'It's very much rewarding.'
A volunteer who has first-hand experience of how valuable the charity can be is Sandra Cross.
Mrs Cross, 62, from Attleborough, started coming to the centre as a patient after she had been treated for leukaemia.
She said: 'They were so good to me here, I wanted to pay back something for what they gave me.'
Mrs Cross said she pitched in with everything from washing and cleaning to organising appointments.
She said: 'Anything that needs doing, I do.'
Star Throwers also provides complementary therapies including holistic aromatherapy massage, reflexology, yoga and acupuncture.
Janet Greenway, 67, from Horsford, volunteers her acupuncture skills once a week.
She said: 'I think the acupuncture helps with the myriad of symptoms that they have which aren't necessarily life-threatening but can be life-disabling, such as various aches and pains and hot flushes.'
One of the charity's dedicated fund-raisers is Anthony Perry, 76, from Easton.
He said: 'I give talks and that raises money. I also come in early and light the fire in the fireplace on Wednesdays.
'It has such a warming effect and what we want to do is make people relax when they come in.'
Mr Perry said he started volunteering he heard Dr Mannings give a talk himself.
Mr Perry said: 'Henry was very emotional when he spoke about this thing called cancer and we were determined that we should do something.
'And, my partner died of cancer so I felt that I wanted to put something back, and I really find it very rewarding.
'So many people just want to come in for a talk, relax and see someone else in the same position that they are.'
Mrs Walters said she agreed. She said: 'Meeting other people if you're in that situation is a great comfort.
'We do our best to make it very light-hearted.'
Helping individuals counts
The charity's unique name comes from an 1969 essay by American philosopher and writer Loren Eiseley called The Star Thrower.
Mr Ho said a passage from the text summed up the charity's ethos or caring for every individual.
The passage reads: 'After a heavy storm, a boy walked along the beach throwing the stranded starfish back into the sea.
'A man watching shouted: 'There are too many of them - it won't make any difference.'
As the boy threw another starfish back into the sea, he smiled and replied: 'It made a difference to that one!''
Any cancer sufferers or family members wanting to find out more about Star Throwers' services, or any potential volunteers, can find out more by calling the charity on 01953 423304, emailing email@example.com or visiting www.starthrowers.org.uk
The centre, at 30 Melton Road, Wymondham, is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.