Margaret’s How Mother’s Struggle Transformed Lives

Cancer Council NSW
From left to right: Tania Ball Nepean Cancer Care Centre Manager, Margaret Buffrey CC Volunteer, Jacquie Guy CC Volunteer, Natalia Arnas Community Coordinator

With almost 1 in 2 people being diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85, cancer touches many lives in profound and unexpected ways.

For Margaret Buffrey, there have been many encounters with cancer that have taken her from diagnosis to dedicated volunteer.

“My mother had pancreatic cancer, my daughter had Ewing sarcoma, my husband had prostate cancer, I’ve had melanoma, and my brother has also had melanoma”, says Margaret.

With National Volunteer Week around the corner on 20-26 May, we’re recognising Margaret’s seven years of dedicated support for people affected by cancer, as a Cancer Council Information Services (CCIS) volunteer at Nepean Cancer Centre.

Confronted with a cancer diagnosis

Looking back to her 2015 melanoma diagnosis, Margaret recalls, “it was a mole that was always there.”

What was nothing more than a benign mole on the back of her left leg, had grown bigger, darker and more knobbly, within the space of 12 months.

Margaret says, “it felt much different, so I went to my GP pretty much straight away.”

Margaret’s GP referred her to a dermatologist, and by the next day, she was diagnosed with melanoma.

After initial surgery to remove the melanoma, her lymph nodes were removed, leading to lymphoedema – a complication that Margaret struggled with.

“At that time, there wasn’t really anything out there for people with lymphoedema,” Margaret remembers. “It was a real game changer when I found a newspaper ad for lymphoedema treatment that could help me.”

Despite the financial burden of managing her condition, Margaret remained positive, stating “paying for my lymphoedema treatment was okay because I was working, so I could afford it.”

“But a lot of other people aren’t as lucky”, she adds.

Discovering the power of helping others

At 19, Margaret’s daughter Lyndall was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma after she had broken a bone in her hand from a car accident – the bone had weakened due to a tumour.

“She spent a year in and out of hospitals having surgery, chemo, and radiation,” says Margaret.

Margaret remembers when Lyndall was declared cancer free at 25.

At last, Lyndal was free to have a normal life, leading a successful career in hospitality, getting married, and as Margaret puts it, “having a beautiful baby boy.”

By 2011, Lyndal was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma again, which had returned as a rare soft tissue tumour behind her heart.

“She passed away in December 2012, just a couple of months short of her 40th birthday”, says Margaret.

From her own cancer diagnosis to being the mother of a sick child, Margaret knows all too well what it’s like for those affected by cancer.

That firsthand experience is what drove Margaret to volunteering at the Children’s Hospital -supporting sick children and their parents, who were overwhelmed with the demands of caring for a sick child.

“These mothers were run off their feet,” Margaret explains. “We helped out to read to their kids, play games with the kids, and talk to them.”

“That way, their mothers could do the normal everyday things, that you can’t do when your child is in hospital. Simple things like showering, going to the bank, doing the shopping”, Margaret adds.

Volunteering at Cancer Council NSW

In 2017, Margaret began volunteering with Cancer Council NSW.

As a CCIS volunteer at the Nepean Cancer Centre, Margaret dedicates each Thursday to helping patients and their families navigate the challenges of a cancer diagnosis.

Margaret’s typical day starts at 9am, helping with self-check-in kiosks, providing booklets with information on cancer, and lending a listening ear.

“We generally try to make people feel better, and I just enjoy it”, she says.

Through her volunteer work, Margaret is making sure that those facing a cancer diagnosis have access to resources, information, and emotional support.

As Margaret continues to give back to the community and make an impact, we hope that her story inspires new generations of volunteers to carry on the same spirit of what it means to be a volunteer.

We’d like to thank Margaret as well as all of our volunteers, for their unwavering commitment that continues to touch the lives of countless people affected by cancer.

Because it’s all of us against cancer.

/Public Release. View in full here.