Head and shoulders portrait of Anna Hawker

Anna’s story

I’m one of the volunteer complementary therapists at Dorothy House in Winsley.  I offer reiki, massage, aromatherapy and Indian head massage. I’ve been coming here about 12 years, usually once, sometimes twice a week.

My day starts in the office for a handover, and a list of the patients I’m seeing that day. They can be outpatients or inpatients. We have to be flexible as things can change on the day – some people might not feel well enough for therapy. We’re very adaptable with what we offer and the techniques we use. Hopefully, we help people choose the best treatment for them on that day – we’ll talk about how they’re feeling at that moment – sometimes they’ll come in with a very clear idea of what they want, and as long as that’s appropriate, we’ll go with that. It’s a process.

We offer therapies to carers and bereaved people as well. That’s one of the nice things about having been here a while. When I first started it was just patients. Now the service has expanded to include other people it’s more inclusive and holistic. I’m also on the Complementary Therapy Steering Group Committee which is very interesting as it informs how the service develops.

I trained in complementary therapies about 25 years ago, and I’ve always had a strong belief in volunteering in all sorts of roles. I finished a job I was doing at a mental health charity and I had some time to offer so I came forward to volunteer at Dorothy House.

I like it here very much. I thought I’d give up at 60, but I’m now heading for 65 and I’m not going to set a date any longer. It’s lovely being part of a team when you’re a complementary therapist, as you’d otherwise mostly work on your own. The patients and the staff here are amazing. I’ve learned so much from them. They’ve changed my view of life – and what matters – where the priorities lie. They’ve taught me to let go of the little niggly things.

I don’t think many people would imagine a hospice to be full of light and laughter, but Dorothy House is. The philosophy here is to live each day – there’s a lot of support and a huge amount of expertise to help patients do that. Volunteering here is a tremendously rewarding experience.

There’s a lot more training now than when I started, but it’s always interesting. We need to keep up with requirements within the organisation but that’s important. And I really like that the organisation is so open to change.

Outside Dorothy House, I seem to keep very busy. I moved house three years ago which turned out to be a bit of a project and that takes quite a lot of my time. I also enjoy singing with two community choirs, gardening, walking, my book group and playing badminton. I also have two delightful grandchildren who live nearby.