Polly Taylor and volunteers at the Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre in Tunbridge Wells, returned to providing support last week after they all received the jab.
Ms Taylor, who herself falls under one of the vulnerable categories, says they were under a lot of pressure to begin the service after the new Covid variant, identified last autumn in Kent, forced them to stop their face-to-face meetings.
She told the Times: “We had to close our centre on Monson Road when all this started because it is not big enough to allow social distancing, but we have continued to provide support, not just over the phone but also in Calverley Grounds during the warmer weather and recently at the Spa Hotel and at Salomons.
“But when this new variant started, I had to close because I just could not risk it with the volunteers we have.”
She said while the centre is allowed to provide face-to-face meetings during lockdown, a number of the team, including herself, are categorised as being in the vulnerable group when it comes to the risk associated with coronavirus.
“It was terrible when I had to tell our clients that we were going to close. They were so upset,” Polly admitted.
“These are people suffering from cancer during a pandemic. Many of them are alone and have nobody else. Phone meetings are all well and good, but it is just not the same as meeting somebody in person.
“Many of the people we see are also really worried about their appoinments and may have nobody else they can turn to for help.”
However, Polly and her entire team of volunteers received the Covid vaccination on January 21 thanks to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, and they began offering support again last Tuesday [February 16]
“Thanks to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council we are now based at the Camden Centre as the hotels are all closed because of lockdown,” said Polly. “But we began again on Tuesday and had around 26 people turn up in two shifts.
“It was so wonderful to be able to give them the support they need again. I really want to thank both the Council and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust for making this possible. We’ve been able to work with the support of everybody working together.”
Chairman of Pickering, David Bartholomew, added: “Being able to start our sessions back at the Camden Centre has been an enormous boost to our volunteers and vistors alike. Being there last week made me proud to be a part of the Pickering team and seeing people able to chat and relax and share their concerns makes everything worthwhile.”
If you need help and support dealing with cancer, you can contact Polly and her team at the Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre website.