I have been Dominic’s befriender for two years. One of the main reasons I wanted to be a befriender was because my grandmother was lonely when she was on her own, and I would have loved her to have had a befriender when she was alive had we known there was such a thing. So I wanted to be there for someone else’s family member who might be on their own or were feeling isolated.

Dominic and I have developed a great bond. Sometimes Dominic asks me ‘what were your first impressions of me when we met?’ and I tell him I thought he was passionate, full of unique interests and collections. We both love a good cup of tea and we both adore our pets, so I knew we would get on. Dominic’s specialist interests, particularly his passion for dressing up in uniform, is evident as soon as you meet him. You also quickly learn he is generous, affectionate, sensitive, cheeky, a shopaholic, strong willed and impatient!

Dominic and I would see each other fortnightly. We spent our time either drinking tea at his flat, going to Southwark park, visiting his second home Rock Steady Eddie’s café in Camberwell, attending his hospital appointments, or running various shopping errands together. Dominic is hugely passionate about the RAF, and one of his favourite activities is visiting the RAF museum in Hendon, so we have been together a couple of times. My job is to stop him going too crazy in the gift shop! Like all of us, and especially those of us who live alone, lockdown was tough. Dominic can’t bear being at home all day. In ‘normal times’ he’s hard to get hold of as he’s always out and about being busy. Dominic is a people person, not being able to spend time at the caff, go to shops, or see anyone has been very hard. He’s kept sane by going for walks and bus trips to Croydon just for somewhere to go, and being on the phone to everyone he knows!

Since the pandemic, we moved to telephone calls, and the occasional doorstop chat. When it was possible, we would go for a walk in all manners of weather. Because we couldn’t be indoors, we spent his birthday sat on a bench in a park in the rain in winter, eating iced buns. I think the pandemic has taught us to appreciate the little things in life. On top of covid and its restrictions, Dominic was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2020. Dominic has amazed me with his resilience, determination and fighting spirit. He has discovered he is far stronger than he thinks he is, and there are plenty of times where he could have given up. He got through surgery, chemotherapy and all its side effects, and has adapted to life with a colostomy bag with surprising ease. Nothing holds him back. I think he is very proud of himself, and so he should be. Dominic’s surgeon told him once ‘no one could forget you’ which pretty much sums him up. He made such an impression with all the nurses and staff at Guy’s hospital, he still pops in to see them to say hello even though his treatment has ended.

I think Dominic and I have developed a special befriending relationship because we talk about how we are feeling and why, and I try to get him to be less hard on himself during the tough times. Unfortunately we know life has this funny habit of throwing things at us and of course it’s okay not to be okay some days. Then the next day is a new day and Dominic tackles it head on with new vigour. Our befriending relationship has strengthened during the past year, we moved on to the phone and saw each other less, but the circumstances and the cancer meant it was even more important to talk. Dominic often tells me how grateful he is to have me, but I remind him that I am lucky, too. He has introduced me a side of the community I would not have otherwise met – who while away the day at one of the few remaining old fashioned London caffs for much more than just their English breakfast. Dominic has shown me the benefits of befriending are great for both parties. It feels great to care for someone who needs that extra person in their life, bonding with others is a human need that is so important for our wellbeing, and seeing Dominic happy makes me happy. I’m sure we have lots of happy memories and good times together ahead of us.