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February 2019

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Western Bridge of Support co-ordinator Louise Knell and peer support volunteer Trish McDonald.

Peer support volunteers are a ray of sunshine for hospital patients

Trish McDonald has been a specially-trained peer support volunteer at Western Health’s Sunshine Hospital for nearly three years.

It is a big commitment, travelling one day a week from Bayside.

But it is one she feels is very effective and reassuring for the women who talk through a worry with her.

Ms McDonald was first diagnosed with breast cancer around five years ago.

She is one of a number of peer support volunteers who can meet with and provide emotional and practical support to women with a breast or a gynaecological cancer diagnosis at Sunshine Hospital.

‘My situation was under control and I had a yearning to see if I could share that with other women,’ Ms McDonald said.

‘I’ve often closed my eyes and wished I’d had this support when I had my dark days – if someone had walked in and said: ‘Hey, I’ve been there.’’

Ms McDonald said her background as a teacher had helped her get along with an amazing mix of women from many different cultures and backgrounds and with many different needs.

It is what she especially loves about her role with Western Health.

‘Some of the older women are very shy to open up and once you have that conversation with them and you have that trust, it’s amazing how they open up – and they can’t always share that with their families or friends.’

Peer support volunteers are available every Thursday in the breast clinic, day oncology ward and radiotherapy at Sunshine Hospital.

•      For more information visit https://counterpart.org.au/health-professionals/. Counterpart is a service of Women’s Health Victoria and is supported by the State Government.