Words of Experience

This is Bex. She’s sharing her story with Dry July to help support those who cared for her during her treatment. 

I struggle to write about my year last year because when asked what could have made it better I can’t name anything specific except not going thru it at all!  

When I think about why I want to support fundraising for the cancer ward its two fold for me.  Firstly, before being diagnosed with cancer I never really got why there is just not enough money, I pay my taxes, surely that’s enough????  It’s not.  And secondly, if I or anyone that I know or love has to use the facilities, which is highly likely, I want them to be the best they can be!  Don’t you!?

The other issue is that when I think about my time, I have an odd fondness for my experience.  It was full of incredible lows and physical challenges but the insight into humanity was priceless.  The staff that choose to work with cancer are outstanding and if anything I can share will help the team create a better work environment, then I am all in because then everyone wins!  I felt so protected and safe so regardless of what happened next I knew I was in the best of hands.

The most commonly asked question I get is, what is it like?  I don’t think I have covered this….  so I thought given I am now 5 cycles down I could tell you. The strangest part is not the actual process of getting the chemo but the reality of the people that are all around you.  I think if you were in a single room and you were connected up it might not be as confronting as when you are in a big room sitting up in your chair and there are chairs of people in the same room getting poisonous drugs pumped into them.  Looking in all stages of health.  Then the reality that there are another group of people lining up in the hallway waiting for the chair and the nurse and the drugs….  its full on and its very sobering….

Last day of treatment: “Going up to the hospital daily was tiring but time has gone by really quickly.  Four weeks have flown by. So odd shaking the hands of the people that have sat in the waiting room with you in truly hideous hospital outfits.  They’re my cancer buddies. I said my goodbyes as I walked out the doors and down the lift for what I can only pray is the last time.  And really that is what has dawned on me.  Completing the treatment is great but it’s an odds game, right? So now its hoping that the odds are in my favour and in yours too!

Bex 

Supporting your mates

Dry July-er Kirsty Morrison shares her very personal inspiration for taking on the challenge:

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I’m doing Dry July as a tribute to those who are battling with cancer – those who will win and sadly in memory of those who have lost.

Our darling girlfriend has melanoma cancer in her blood stream and every day we are grateful for the services provided and the care and support that she receives, as well as the drug trial that she has the opportunity to be on. And every day we wish there was more that could be done for her. 

The loss of my own mother to secondary liver cancer, my uncle and grandfather to bowel cancer and also many family friends to other cancers, including another very special lady just this month, means the C-Word is a terrifying thing for me to hear, as it is I am sure for hundreds of thousands of other Kiwis and their families suffering around New Zealand.

So I’m dedicating myself to two things to show how much I care about those who are fighting the silent war against Cancer this month.

One is professionally supporting our local Waipuna Hospice here in Tauranga, by spreading the word far and wide that we are recruiting for a new Palliative Care Medicine Specialist to join their amazing team of professionals and volunteers. These specialist physicians are a bit like finding ‘hens teeth in a haystack’. And since every other town in the country is also after the same thing, we are finding we can only compete on providing a great remuneration package, Waipuna Hospice being recognised as an excellent employer and the Bay of Plenty being the lifestyle destination of choice.

And the second thing I am doing is abstaining from alcohol for the month of July. Dry July raises funds that get allocated for various projects that help the wellbeing of adult cancer sufferers and their families. And I think that’s a pretty ‘real’ cause to support.

I have no doubt our girlfriend will WIN the battle against the Big C, but in the meantime she and her family are the type of people who get to benefit from Dry July every time they receive treatment or get to experience the many other wonderful services provided by hospices and palliative care hospitals around New Zealand.

And I’m also doing this for some sense of personal gain – health and wellness and re-awakening that rather elusive virtue I have somewhere called willpower!
So, I would appreciate everyone’s support in this mammoth mission and also welcome you all to give a little for this cause, as its one that will affect us all in some way at some stage in our lives.

To donate and get Tauranga at the top of the fundraising board please go to my profile: https://nz.dryjuly.com/profile/christinamorrison. 

Thank you - every little bit of support helps, as going ‘Dry’ is no easy feat for this wicked wine lover.

It’s a journey - Cancer Society can help

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No one should have to travel their cancer journey alone. With your help this Dry July they won’t have to.

Life can be full of unexpected twists and turns, sometimes it seems like everything happens at once. Cancer can be like that. So often it happens when we least expect it and at a time when we are already dealing with other difficult situations in our lives.

That’s when your compassion for people with cancer can make all the difference.

Jim received his cancer diagnosis at a time when he was already coping with the ill-health of his beloved wife Maggie.

When Jim embarked on his treatment journey, he needed to get to Auckland hospital, some 40 kilometres away, every weekday for his treatment. However, Maggie was not able to come along to Jim’s appointments.

Many patients are not well enough to drive, and family and friends are already under immense pressure – organising childcare, working to maintain income or simply too elderly or unwell to drive every day to the hospital.

Jim was faced with the prospect of leaving Maggie at home with carers for hours on end as he travelled by public transport to the hospital.

Thankfully the Cancer Society was able to step in and help by arranging a volunteer driver to take Jim to and from his treatments.

But even though Cancer Society is blessed with a large group of dedicated volunteers, providing this kind of free support to patients comes at a cost. As a charity they rely on donations to help carry on with this essential work.

While Jim’s health improved over time, sadly Maggie’s did not and she passed away last year.

Jim was left to pick up the pieces and carry on as best he could. His cancer treatment had to continue too. Thankfully, Cancer Society was able to be there for Jim, as he puts it:

“Cancer Society makes a big difference for people like me. They give you moral support, they arrange transport and their nurses will call on you and fix you up with meals if you need them.”

Every dollar you donate to Dry July helps ensure that this kind of care can continue. No one should have to travel their cancer journey alone - with your support they won’t have to.

Nick is a survivor

My name is Nick, and I was diagnosed with head & neck cancer in 2009, at age 34.  The cancer was in the right side of my tongue and had spread to the lymph glands in my neck. I was treated by a multidisciplinary team from the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre.  After a radical surgery to replace half of my tongue with a section of my forearm, I had six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.   

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During this time, I spent many days at hospital, sometimes planned and sometimes unplanned!  My condition at times fell to a level where I’d need to be checked into hospital to be looked after, and stay a few nights until I was well enough to go home. 

The staff and standard of care was excellent, but the circumstances were often challenging - physically and mentally.  Coping with the rigours of cancer treatment is difficult and tests your willpower, as well as being stressful for families and support people. 

The simplest, basic needs were what mattered most: Trying to sleep and rest as comfortably as possible, wherever I was stationed. Also important was keeping in touch with family who couldn’t be there at the time, but needed to know how I was doing, when would likely need picked up, or if I needed items from home.     

Over the past few years I’ve benefited from the hard work of many good people at the Blood and Cancer Centre, who’ve all helped me in a myriad of ways cope with my recovery.  It was a thrill last November to complete five years of recovery and checkups and to “graduate” as successfully treated.   

Today I’m living a normal, happy life thanks to the support of hundreds of different people.  I keep in touch with other patients through support groups, and I’m involved with a few different community groups aiming to raise awareness and support for people facing or going through cancer treatment. 

Occasionally I give a speech or presentation to tell my story and help others understand what the experience is like and show them that while facing cancer is like facing a huge mountain, with the help of other good people, it can be successfully climbed! 

I greatly appreciate the effort of organisations like Dry July and I particularly appreciate their focus on improving patient experience while going through treatment. The littlest things can make a big difference! 

Patient Story: The best of care

Aubrey Fitzpatrick had hardly been sick a day in his life before being diagnosed with stomach cancer on Christmas Eve 2013.

Four days earlier Aubrey visited his general practitioner for what he thought was indigestion. A blood test revealed it was much more than that. Aubrey had surgery followed by radiation treatment and has just begun the fourth of six cycles of chemotherapy.

“It was the first time in my life I had ever been in hospital,” he says.

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Aubrey never thought cancer would happen to him.

“When it does, you experience a rollercoaster of emotions, but you have to deal with it the best you can, and stay positive about things.”

One of the ways the formerly self-employed Christchurch businessman does this is by keeping active walking his ‘highly intelligent” three month old spoodle puppy named Ted, (because he looks like a teddy bear).

“I’m very lucky, I have a good supportive family and am getting the best of care.”

Aubrey says he can’t speak highly enough of the treatment he has received at Christchurch Hospital.

“The staff’s dedication, passion and general concern about people was a whole new experience for me. I couldn’t believe how people, who deal with this type of thing on a day to day basis as part of their job can be so positive, focused and cheerful.”

He feels “very privileged” to have Christchurch Hospital Radiation Oncologist, Iain Ward, and Medical Oncologist, Jim Edwards, looking after him.

“They are the best.”

While in Christchurch Hospital receiving treatment in March, he and other cancer patients enjoyed watching ICC Cricket World Cup games on Prime TV from the “lovely, comfortable” chairs bought with Dry July funds.

Aubrey is signing up to Dry July because the good it does is “something I can speak first hand from experience about, something I have been part of.”

Dry July is a nationally run, on-line fundraising and health awareness campaign. Individuals or teams sign up to the challenge of a month-long sponsored abstinence from alcohol. Funds raised are spent on creating better environments and support networks for adult cancer oncology patients and their families.

You can support Dry July too, sign up now www.dryjuly.co.nz and visit the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) webpage www.cdhb.health.nz/Dryjuly

The Canterbury Regional Cancer and Haematology Service had a fantastic response last year – 1396 participants signed up to support Dry July and raised $198,121.

Items purchased in Christchurch with Dry July funds include, hospice mattresses; upgrading the music system in the hospital radiation bunkers so that patients undergoing radiation therapy in a linac accelerator can select their own music; iPads for patients to use while having treatment; and electric lift beds in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.