IT HAS been seven years this week since Don Smith lost his beloved wife Joan to cancer.

He still misses her smile, her sense of humour and their walking adventures but has found comfort in helping others through a whirl of volunteering efforts.

Don works eight hours a week for free on the reception at the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust’s headquarters in Poundbury.

He is also a volunteer driver and trained helper for the charity’s bereavement social group, which meets monthly in West Bay, and he takes Weldmar patients to hospital visits and collects prescriptions.

Don, aged 75, of Burton Bradstock, became a volunteer for CancerCare Dorset, as it was then known, after Joan, aged 66, passed away on July 13 2002.

Mother-of-two Joan first developed breast cancer in 1987 and Don took early retirement from his civil engineer job at Buckinghamshire County Council and moved the family back to Dorset, where he and Joan had first met.

Don said: “I’d always promised Joan that we’d move back.

“Joan grew up in West Knighton before her family moved to a little bungalow on the Nothe.

“I met her when I was in the army, based on the Nothe in the Royal Engineers with a civilian organisation.

“I got friendly with her father and he introduced us and we just clicked.

“She was 19 and I was 21.”

The couple married at St Mary’s Church in Weymouth in 1958 and had two daughters, Susan and Jacqueline.

When the family moved to Buckland Newton in 1988, Joan got a job at Weymouth’s Marks and Spencer and also trained as a volunteer for the West Dorset Macmillan Service, later to become Cancer Care Dorset, helping those who had suffered cancer.

Sadly, five years later, Joan’s cancer came back in various forms and they were advised it was terminal.

Don said: “My wife became quite poorly, so our nurse arranged for her to be admitted to Joseph Weld Hospice.

“What an uplifting experience, every member of staff was so caring, and above all had time to devote to their patients in an unhurried manner.”

Don’s best memories of this time was a pregnant doctor putting Joan’s hand on her tummy to feel her baby moving, ‘such a joyous moment’ and countless other staff ‘for their kindness and help.’ After a fortnight Joan was able to sit in the ‘beautiful gardens’ and entertain her visitors.

Another week later the ‘marvellous medical staff’ had got her pain under control and she was able to return home for the last eight weeks of her life Don said it made ‘the world of difference to Joan’ to be at home surrounded by those she loved under the care of their Dorset Cancer Care nurse Steve Wood and district nurses.

He said the service ‘did not end there’ and when Joan passed away, Steve, who had become a close family friend, persuaded Don to use the charity’s bereavement service.

Don said: “Steve came to see me and being macho I said I could cope and he said ‘No you can’t’ and persuaded me to the Lynne Cove of the family support team.”

Lynne ‘turned his life around’ and encouraged Don to become a volunteer on the fundraising side of Cancer Care Dorset.

Since then the service has amalgamated to become the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust and Don has continued helping with a bereavement social group, patient transport and administration.

Don added: “People comment on how good I am to volunteer, my answer is the service does far more for me in my widowhood.

“It gives me a focus in life and of course I’ve made a lot of lovely friends with the staff and other volunteers.”

Show them you care

THE Show Them You Care campaign has raised £5,017.20 since the appeal was launched on February 28 but there is a long way to go to hit the £60,000 target needed to pay for a community nurse for a year. All the money will be used to fund a nurse for a year.

Crucially, it would mean even more patients receiving all the support they need, when they need it most. Donate by visiting webpage www.justgiving. com/weldmarnurse

Send cheques payable to ‘The Weldmar Hospicecare Trust’ to the Dorset Echo offices at Fleet House, Hampshire Road, Weymouth, DT4 9XD.

We would also like to hear your stories of how Weldmar has helped you. Call Laura Kitching on 01305 830984.