By Jackie Parker
I can relate to people who are dealing with cancer because I'm a survivor myself.
My children were 4 and 6 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. Now some 20 years later, I help patients, caregivers and librarians as a weekly volunteer in The Learning Center.
Becoming an MD Anderson volunteer
While seeking volunteer opportunities in the community 11 years ago, a friend and fellow breast cancer survivor had just finished her treatment at MD Anderson. We attended volunteer orientation together. I love to read, and when my kids were young, I volunteered in their school's library. So, The Learning Center seemed to be a good fit for me.
My friend still volunteers at MD Anderson, too. She works with Pink Ribbon volunteers in the Breast Center.
Patients coming to The Learning Center for the first time are often surprised by the resources we have and how helpful everyone is. Plus, everything is free for patients and their families. They can fax, make copies, pick up free booklets and pamphlets, use our computers and check out our books.
We have books about all types of cancer and available treatments, as well as books about nutrition, tobacco cessation and many other health topics. We also have books featuring personal stories, which can be reassuring to patients. Our patrons can also find information about our MD Anderson doctors, and use our many databases to access current and accurate information about cancer.
If a patient has children, we have books and brochures that help parents talk with them about their cancer and treatment. We also have books that kids can read themselves and books for younger children that parents can read with them.
"Helping patients is an art"
What does a normal day look like for me in The Learning Center? I do a variety of things.
Mainly, I work on clerical duties to free up the library staff so that they can focus on their other duties. I check out books, process new titles, restock the shelves, print updated pathfinders and maintain stock of materials in the centers. I also help patients and families find the resources they need.
Helping patients is an art. We have a vast amount of information, but it's important to give the right amount because cancer can be overwhelming. Every person's needs are different, and how I help depends on the situation. I listen first to determine what that person needs before deciding what I can do or say to help.
Where to find The Learning Center
Whether you're a new patient, a family member or even a cancer survivor, I encourage you to visit The Learning Center and use our resources. Don't worry if you don't know a lot of information because the staff can point you in the right direction.
There are two locations. Both are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Theodore N. Law Learning Center
Main Building, Floor 4, near Elevator A, Room R4.1100
Levit Family Learning Center
Mays Clinic, Floor 2, near The Tree Sculpture, Room ACB2.1120
If you're interested in volunteering, please contact Volunteer Services at 713-792-5646.
Jackie Parker is a breast cancer survivor. She lives in Missouri City and drives to MD Anderson each week to volunteer in The Learning Center.