Mum’s breast cancer journey inspires teen daughter to volunteer

19/May/2023     Mater Private Hospital Redland

A 19-year-old Redland volunteer who was left devastated after hearing of her mum’s breast cancer diagnosis is giving back to the very hospital helping to save her life.

Shanelle is the youngest of 42 volunteers at Mater Private Hospital Redland and this National Volunteers Week (15-21 May) she’s encouraging other students and young people to lend a hand at the hospital where her mum receives monthly cancer treatment.

Riëtte, Shanelle’s mum, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer just three days after her 50th birthday in May 2019.  

“Before that day, she loved her busy marketing and public relations career. We were a typical, busy family of four – mum, dad and us two kids,” Shanelle said.

“I was in Year 10, and my brother Michael was in Year 8. After a routine breast screen, mum received a call from BreastScreen Queensland, and her life, and ours, changed instantly.”

Shanelle began volunteering at Mater Private Hospital Redland in the concierge department in December, and she also now assists with patient charts in the Mater Cancer Care Centre.

Shanelle said it was nice to be around when her mum attended the Cancer Care Centre for her treatment.

“Just being there means I can give her some support too,” she said.

The University of Queensland student said she was keen to build on her personal and professional development and gain work experience as a volunteer at Mater.

“My position entails, but is not limited to, supporting patients and visitors to find their way around the hospital, helping patients to their rooms, conducting patient feedback surveys, constructing and dissembling charts and assisting with other administration tasks,” Shanelle said.

“What I love most about volunteering is that it allows me to make a real difference in my community. Volunteering at the Mater makes me feel valued, needed, and acknowledged by staff, patients, and other volunteers. Everyone is so thankful, which encourages me.

“From my experience, volunteering builds your confidence in a professional work environment. You gain work experience and can develop skills you can use in your career later. Also, your reward is the joy you receive for helping and giving back to your community.

“A good conversation also helps make patients feel calmer. I enjoy making jokes and seeing how the mood of the patients brightens.” 

Mater Private Hospital Redland Volunteer Coordinator Priscilla Brown said Shanelle was a valued member of the volunteer team and committed to supporting staff and patients.

“Shanelle takes on any given task with a huge smile and a positive attitude. All of the staff that meet Shanelle have praised her attention to detail and willingness to learn new skills,” Priscilla said.

“It is great to have a younger volunteer to show other young people the value of volunteering at any age. 

For more information about Mater volunteering, please phone Mater Volunteers on 07 3163 8599, email or visit

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