Sonny Meadows is the most energetic, delightful and dynamic person that I have met in recent memory. Her enthusiasm for the volunteer work that she performs is infectious. With a keen sense of humor and compassion, one can easily see how patients who are undergoing infusion treatments for cancer would feel that she can be trusted to be sincere, knowledgeable, welcoming and definitely enthusiastic.
The American Cancer Society liaises with UW Medicine/Valley Medical Center to provide the Cancer Resource Center (CRC), where volunteers help cancer patients get the information, resources and referrals they need. It is here where Sonny has volunteered four hours a week since 2011. She is one of eight volunteers who staff the resource center.
Sonny stresses that “There are a whirlwind of issues that face a newly diagnosed patient.” In her volunteer role she is well versed about the resources that can help the patient as well as their family, friends and caregivers.
The Wig, Hat & Turban Bank, free hats, lap robes, pillows and make-up kits are just a sampling of some of the important services and items offered free of charge by the CRC through the generosity of the American Red Cross and other sources. There is a computer to use, a wig room where volunteers like Sonny do fittings, and an area filled with written materials on topics ranging from how to receive assistance with utility bills to navigating through medical insurance coverage, as well as a wealth of information on additional programs and services available to cancer patients.
Becoming a volunteer at the CRC was a decision that Sonny did not take lightly. During 2011, she was struggling to find an additional volunteer commitment. She came upon RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) while studying the Volunteer Match website. Sonny and Jennifer Gahagan, King County’s Director of RSVP, talked many times before they worked out a volunteer assignment that felt right for her. Sonny emphasizes, “I really appreciate the time and effort that Jennifer put into making sure that my RSVP site was a good fit for me.”
The CRC is located near the Infusion Center where treatments take place. Sonny noted that this proximity provides “easy access for patients to visit the Cancer Resource Center.” In addition, “We go to the Infusion Center in the hospital to visit with new patients, provide a gift pack, a general information folder, and a Health Manager file to help keep track of records. If the patient is willing, we sit and talk to them.”
The opportunity to visit with patients pleases Sonny a great deal as she is very much a people person. She adds that another part of her volunteer role is to “stay connected to those who are still receiving treatment,” which fits in well with her love of people and innate skill in reaching out to those in times of need.
Sonny appreciates the excellent training that she received. Monthly staff meetings are held to help keep everyone on the same page. When she began volunteering, volunteers did not go into the treatment area and only staffed the CRC. Now they are trained for both.
She stresses that to be a volunteer here requires that you have to be resilient and can’t take things personally. Sonny points out that patients react in so many different ways to their diagnoses. “The dynamics are different each day. No two people come in the same.”
Sonny has lived in Washington since the 1960s. She is a retired nurse with 30 years in occupational nursing at Boeing. She walks half marathons, participates in the Sound Steps Walking Program offered through the Seattle Parks & Recreation Department, travels, gardens and reads… and you can guess that, yes, she really enjoys volunteering.
Sonny believes, “If you have lived a blessed life, it is important to give back.” And, like the Energizer Bunny, Sonny just keeps going and going and going!