Volunteers provide special care to cancer patients

At The Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, volunteers help lessen the feelings of anxiety and loneliness that can add to the physical and emotional strain of cancer treatment.

Horace Behrle, of Ansonia, knows how difficult battling cancer can be, and that’s why he gives his time at The Center for Cancer Care.

Behrle underwent 45 treatments at the center and attributes his recovery to the skilled and also kind care he received. The experience left such an impression on him, that Behrle has been a volunteer ambassador at The Center for four years, greeting individuals when they come in the door and guiding them to their destinations.

“It gives people a better feeling when they come to a new place and someone is receptive to them right away,” Behrle said. “When you escort people to where they are going, it sets them at ease. I want them to know that someone is here to help them.”

Calm and caring

Once the patients find where they need to be, volunteers continue to help provide a calm and caring environment at the center. Volunteers offer soft touch massage to the hands, feet or back.

They provide Reiki or Therapeutic Touch therapies in the center’s spa-like meditation room. In the afternoon, volunteer bakers make fresh muffins and bring them around the waiting rooms.

Volunteers also simply provide a listening ear or a friendly smile, including the special, furry kind that come from the therapy dogs in Griffin Hospital’s People and Animals Working in Spirit (P.A.W.S.).

Survivor gives back

Vi Madura, a cancer survivor and 10-year volunteer at the center, offers soft touch massage and is happy to help caregivers relax because cancer treatment can be just as emotional for a patient’s friends and family.

“I really enjoy volunteering at The Center because I’m helping people through a very difficult time,” the Milford resident said. “People enjoy getting the chance to relax while they are here, the soft touch gives them a chance to take their minds off why they are here, and that’s beneficial for both the patients and those taking care of them.”

The work of these volunteers is one of the pillars of the Planetree patient-centered model of care at The Center for Cancer Care. Planetree is an innovative model of healthcare that puts patients’ needs first by offering welcoming and comfortable interiors and service, emphasizing patient and family involvement in care and providing free health education and access to medical records and information.

“The volunteers at The Center for Cancer Care are invaluable,” said Carrie O'Malley, patient care navigator at The Center for Cancer Care. “Their welcoming and accommodating nature let’s our patients know that they are important. Our volunteers do a fantastic job helping the patients and caregivers take their minds off their treatment for even just a few moments, taking a not-so-good moment and making it a little easier.”

Every Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital volunteer is required to attend a three-hour orientation, followed by a training session for their particular assignment. After four hours of service on any given day, volunteers are entitled to a free meal ticket at the hospital’s dining room.

For more information about these and other volunteer opportunities at Griffin Hospital, call 203-732-7555 or visit griffinhealth.org.