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Huntsman Cancer Institute short of volunteers

Posted at 9:48 AM, Dec 22, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns can give the gift of hope and support to those dealing with cancer as administrators with the Huntsman Cancer Institute say they are desperately short of volunteers who help provide comfort and care.

Health officials say nearly 40 percent of men and women in America will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point in their life. Doctors at the institute study the disease and provide state of the art treatment.

But for those receiving care, it can still be a very difficult, uncertain and frightening time. That’s when volunteers step in to try and provide some comfort.

“I think it’s important and you can kind of tell, even with the mask on, it’s a little bit harder, you kind of have to smile with your eyes behind the mask but it’s important to be able to connect and have empathy and compassion," said volunteer Cheryl Gentle.

A retired nurse and a cancer survivor herself, Gentle says it all helps her relate to and bond with many of the patients. She has volunteered at Huntsman since it opened more that two decades ago and says a kind word, some conversation or a gentle touch can go a long way.

“Do they need a warm blanket, can we get them a cup of chocolate, how can we help make the time pass a little faster? Make it a little easier for them," said Gentle. "And if they happen to start talking about what their disease is and I get a chance to say, ‘Well, I’m a cancer survivor, too.'"

"I don’t bring it up first, but it’s definitely a way to connect beyond just a warm body.”

Volunteers pay especially close attention to those enduring their struggle alone.

“As long as somebody comes by, just checking on you, make sure it’s a good day for you, everybody needs a support system," added cancer patient Sharoyln Hanley.

For as much as volunteers do, the University of Utah Hospital and the Huntsman Cancer Institute need more people like Gentle.

“We are in desperate need of volunteers. We had to let every one of them go at the beginning of COVID. We were able to retain six, and two of them have stepped down, so I’m down four volunteers for the entire hospital," shared Christopher Moss, the hospital's volunteer coordinator.

Anyone with the time to volunteer with the hospital and institute can CLICK HERE to get more information.