Every day we're blown away by the commitment of our volunteers and Willow Champions. This Volunteers' Week we asked Jackie to share her story: 

"Cancer took a lot from me last year – my boob, my tummy fat, my hair and a whole host of things I would never have predicted. But, in so doing, it gave me something incredibly powerful in return. It showed me that I was so busy racing through life, I had lost sight (at 32) of what it was to truly enjoy it.

Last year taught me that happiness isn’t so much about chasing dreams and big landmark ‘life’ events, such as weddings and children and career highs. Happiness is waiting for you in a freshly-cut flower or when the sun breaks through the clouds. And true happiness comes not from seeking out pleasure or curling up in front of the TV, but from a life with meaning.

For me, that means waking up each day and trying to work out what it is I’m going to do that will make a difference.

Not long after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I made a decision. I made the decision not to count the days until the end of active treatment, but to make every day count. It is was this decision that saw me run a 10k for charity before my last chemotherapy treatment and go into workplaces with no hair to talk about the importance of breast checking in younger women.

And, it was this decision that led me to Willow.

Willow is not just amazing because of what it does and what it stands for – offering seriously ill young people the chance to enjoy a wonderful experience to transport them far from the hospital waiting room, their diagnosis and treatment. Willow is amazing because of the people behind the scenes – from the team who plan every detail of a Special Day and the welcoming founders to the events coordinators and PR representatives. They inspired me when I went on the Orient Express for my day out during chemo. And, with their determination to succeed and positive outlook on life, they continue to do so every day.

Willow is as much a family as it is a charity.

Volunteering has really made me feel like one of the family and that I, too, can help (in my own small way) change lives. I have stood up in front of a room of people and talked about how a Special Day is so much more than just a day. I have stood on Tower Bridge cheering with a giant placard to lift the spirits of Willow’s marathon runners. And just knowing I will be standing in a field talking to 6,000 people in July and running both a 10k and half marathon in October makes me smile.

Hope is a wonderful thing when you have a serious illness. And hope is what comes with a Willow Special Day.

I wear my purple Willow T-shirt with pride and all I hope is that by spreading the Willow message and raising funds more people can find their way to what I believe is one of the most positive and life-enhancing charities around."

Find out more about volunteering

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