A cancer diagnosis is something no family ever wants to deal with. I discovered a lump in my breast three months after moving to Moree to teach in 2006. I had met many people in town and discovered the amazing generosity and friendliness of the people of Moree but it was difficult being away from my family in Armidale and Uralla when I was diagnosed and receiving treatment.

 

May 2013 was my seven-year anniversary of finding the lump and it seems like a lifetime ago. Because of my distance from medical specialists, I was told of the diagnosis and future treatment options by phone in a conversation which lasted over 45 minutes. The doctor showed great understanding, compassion and professionalism, taking into account my remote location and that I was by myself.

 

There are no cancer treatment services in Moree and you have to travel for diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Sydney is over 618 kilometres or a seven-hour drive; Brisbane is about 480 kilometres away, a five-hour drive.

 

I drove thousands of kilometres, mostly alone, for treatment. Two trips to Tamworth, two trips to Brisbane, four trips to Armidale for chemotherapy and lastly a trip to Brisbane for radiotherapy. Three operations, one week in hospital, drugs, blood tests, injections, eight weeks of radiotherapy and approximately 6500 kilometres later, it was all over.

 

The lowest point in my breast cancer journey came when I was driving home from my last chemotherapy treatment. It was a lovely spring day and I decided to take the scenic route from Armidale to Moree via Bundarra and Bingara. A tyre blew and the car span on the dirt road.

 

I was completely bald and wearing jeans, boots and a white t-shirt. I might not have looked like a sick female but it was definitely the sickest that I had been during my entire chemotherapy treatment. As I changed the tyre on the side of the road, four cars drove past, not registering that I might need help. As I reloaded the car a kind man stopped and asked if I was ok. I think he was genuinely shocked when he realised that I wasn’t male.

 

Throughout my cancer treatment I received help and support from a wonderful organisation called Can Assist. At this stage there was no Can Assist branch in Moree but the Armidale and Uralla branches of Can Assist came to my assistance and provided funding to allow me to have accommodation close to the radiotherapy treatment centre.

 

It was a very expensive time and the support was amazing. I had limited sick leave because I was in a new job so I worked through the chemotherapy treatment period, but had to take eight weeks leave without pay for radiotherapy. This put further pressure on the budget.

 

In 2009 I decided that it was time to give something back and contacted Can Assist to see if I could establish a branch in Moree. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up to be part of the original committee and I thank all of those hard working members, both present and past, who helped establish and maintain the branch in Moree.

 

If you have cancer and you live in the country, then you have to travel to receive life-saving treatment. That means long periods away from home and family, that means not being able to work or earn a living, it means worrying about paying rent or the mortgage, about who will look after your children, pets, stock or garden while you are away.

 

I know the long distances that patients are required to travel and I understand the difficulties of spending long periods away from home. If there is just one burden that can be lifted in the form of providing accommodation so that country cancer patients can access treatment in cities, then this is a vital service for country people.

 

Someone said to me that the only way to get through chemotherapy was to drink lots of champagne and eat strawberries. I don’t know if it was the secret but it certainly helped.

 

Seven years down the track I am married to Chris and we have two beautiful children. I still live in Moree, teach at the same school and enjoy strawberries and champagne. I feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people on my cancer journey, medical professionals, people with cancer and the wonderful members of my local community.

 

---------

Can Assist is a charity which provides accommodation, practical support and financial assistance to country people in NSW affected by cancer. Our vision is that every country community, family and individual should have equitable access to cancer care and support services. Can Assist has been helping country families for over 57 years and has 50 branches in country towns across NSW supported by over 2,900 volunteers. Can Assist provides its services to help bridge the gap between city and country cancer patients. In 2012 Can Assist provided $1.6 million in financial assistance and helped 2,563 country people receive cancer treatment.

 

Organisation Details
Sector:
Address: 
Suite 1, Ground Floor, 25-39 Mountain Street, Ultimo NSW 2007
Contact details: 

+61 2 8217 3400

 

admin@canassist.com.au 

Connect