We recognise that there is an urgent need for cancer patients (we call them ‘thrivers’) and cancer caregivers to find emotional support from people who have been through similar experiences.
To meet this need, ACF relies on volunteers in our Peer to Peer support program, a free service we provide that matches anal cancer thrivers (our word for survivors) and caregivers with thriver volunteers and caregiver volunteers.
Have you considered joining the program as a volunteer? We would love to have you! Hopefully this post gives you a little more info on what volunteering entails. Learn more and sign up!
Some of the Frequently Asked Questions that people interested in becoming a Volunteer for our P2P ask are:
What issues do support seekers (Thrivers and Caregivers) discuss with Volunteers? What kind of help can Volunteers give?
The relationship between a support seeker and an ACF Volunteer is a natural, friendly mentorship that is supportive in nature. ACF Volunteers never dispense any medical advice or try to diagnose a medical problem. ACF Volunteers listen, question and help thrivers through their cancer journey by sharing their own experiences. Conversation topics might include:
• What treatments and side effects feel like in the Volunteer’s experience
• Tips on dealing with side effects
• Pain issues
• Stigma and social experiences relating to the diagnosis
• Experience navigating the medical system
What communication methods do Thrivers, Caregivers and ACF Volunteers use?
Together an ACF Volunteer and Thriver or Caregiver decide the best method(s) of contact that works for both the support seeker and the Volunteer. Communication with a Volunteer is often a progression of comfort on both sides. Some thrivers even meet up in person! This is of course quite exceptional and not a requirement at all.
How often do support seekers and ACF Volunteers communicate?
The frequency and amount of communication is up to both the support seeker and the Volunteer. Generally, it’s best to be guided by the needs of the Thriver or Caregiver, which will often vary over time. Sometimes all that's needed is one phone call, while other relationships span years. We ask that all Volunteers reach out to their Thriver or Caregiver at least once a week for the first 6 weeks.
Do matches need to live in the same city?
Not at all -- matched pairs could be living anywhere, as long as they are able to communicate in a way that works for the support seeker. A support seeker can also indicate a preference for finding a local match.
Can a support seeker be matched with more than one ACF Volunteer?
Yes. Each person's cancer experience is different and sometimes it is helpful to benefit from the support of more than one ACF Volunteer.
Can ACF Volunteers help the friends and family of cancer fighters?
Yes! Under our caregiver program, anyone (parents, siblings, children or friends of a cancer fighter) can seek the support of a Volunteer Caregiver (who was a cancer caregiver).
You may already be a caregiver to an anal cancer thriver at present. It is important to remember that your own personal state of mind and wellbeing impacts heavily on the quality of care you are able to give. If you are an existing caregiver, you may find some of our tips useful as to how you can best support your loved one.
What happens if the connection between an ACF Volunteer and a support seeker doesn't work?
ACF tries to match Thrivers and Caregivers with ACF Volunteers based on their similarities in cancer experience, age, and other important characteristics. Sometimes the relationship does not work out, and that’s completely fine! The participants should contact an ACF staff person to refer the support seeker to a different Volunteer.
Does ACF give medical advice?
Never. All of our Volunteers and staff are trained never to give medical advice or to try and diagnose a medical problem. At most, they will refer the Thriver to safe medical sites online such as the National Cancer Institute, and remind the Thriver that the goal is to take information to their medical team for discussion.
Does information entered by Thrivers, Caregivers and ACF Volunteers remain confidential?
Yes, all the information entered is secure and never shared outside of ACF with anyone beyond the matching process. The person seeking support has a right to privacy that must always be respected.
Do ACF Volunteers help people at any cancer stage and/or post-treatment?
Yes, connections are available for anyone at any cancer stage. From newly diagnosed, to in treatment, to post-treatment, to post post-treatment, anal cancer thrivers and their caregivers are in need of support. We seek to provide support at any point in your cancer journey.
How are potential Volunteers screened and trained?
Each person submits a volunteer application detailing his or her personal experience with anal cancer. We collect a variety of information to help with matching including: demographic information, cancer history, treatment history and more. All of this information is kept confidential and is never shared with anyone except a matched participant, with the consent of the Volunteer. The potential Volunteer then reviews the ACF Volunteer Training Manual and goes through an extensive telephone interview to review their volunteer application and their understanding of the training materials.
ACF Volunteers are intended to nurture a supportive, encouraging and friendly mentorship with a cancer Thriver or Caregiver without ever dispensing medical advice.
ACF staff are available to answer Volunteers’ (and Thrivers’) questions and provide support as needed.
How are connected support seekers and ACF Volunteers monitored? Is there a follow up?
ACF reaches out to both parties (typically by email) at the two-week mark to ensure the match occurred, survey how it’s going and ask if additional assistance is needed and if so, what type. ACF will then check-in at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months.
What happens if an ACF Volunteer has a recurrence or advancement of the cancer while paired with a Thriver?
ACF Volunteers should contact an ACF staff person if there is ever an extenuating circumstance of any kind. The organization will work with the Volunteer to figure out whether it’s best to continue participation in the program during the recurrence.
Interested in joining our peer to peer programme or in volunteering? You can sign up for our programme here.