Do you folks recall when I started volunteering? In the summer of 2016 I started applying for positions, unsure whether I’d be accepted for work because of my leukemia. Neither agency I approached seemed to exclude me on the basis of my illness, so unexpectedly I ended up with two volunteer gigs rather than one. I started at Canadian Blood Services in September 2016 and at PALS with Jelly a few months later.
I never thought I could sustain two weekly commitments for long, as much as I enjoyed both. I figured keeping up that pace would draw on too much of my precious energy. Some weeks were tough but I managed to attend the vast majority of my scheduled shifts. My health has been so remarkably stable over this time that there’s been no need to bail.
But, as you well know, loyal readers, my health is changing in ways I don’t yet understand. And these changes have necessitated an increasing number of doctors appointments. Jelly and I had to bail on our scheduled PALS visit last week because of my corkscrew procedure, for example.
Over the next while, I anticipate ramping up my time at the cancer centre, whether for appointments with Dr. Blood Lite, blood transfusions (thank you dear donors), or other procedures. Sometimes I’ll have sufficient notice to work around my volunteer schedule but at other times, like last week’s biopsy which I was informed of the day prior, I will not.
After considerable deliberation during one of my sleepless nights–I’m trying to make my middle-of-the-night awakenings productive–I gave notice at Canadian Blood Services a few days ago. I will have one final shift next week and then I will no longer be spending my Monday afternoons feeding people soup, juice, and cookies. I can no longer manage the two hours of heavy lifting–those soup cans weigh a ton–and dishwashing and table wiping and encouraging the donors to come back again soon. I am so wiped by the end of my shifts that even the drive home through rush hour traffic is becoming a challenge.
I could have left PALS instead, but our visits are shorter and less physically demanding. I transport Jelly to the visit site, sit on a chair while Jelly lays on the floor, and don’t move much until the visit is over. Also, Jelly has told me she’d like to keep PALSing, especially since some days her ageing body is not up to a walk. These visits get both of us out of the house with minimal effort.
Still, CBS had its own rewards. I was thrilled by the sight of a busy clinic, or of regular donors reaching milestone donations. I loved meeting first-time donors who realized the process was a breeze and planned to return. And I took great pride in eventually mastering soup ladling without major spillage or skin burnage. Not everyone belongs in food services.
I was an abject failure at one responsibility, however: I panicked on the rare occasion when someone fainted after donating. My ability to manage such crises did not improve over time. Thank goodness others could step in when I froze. We all have our shortcomings.