A Dry July battler...

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Most people who know me are well aware that I like a few drinks.  I rarely stop at one.  So when a friend talked about participating in Dry July I thought what a great opportunity to improve my overall health and wellbeing by cutting out alcohol for a month.  It was going to be tough.  I had barely gone without it for a week in the last five years.  Alcohol had always been an escape during difficult times in my life, of which there had recently been a few.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of 2015 I went through the initial shock of the news to a period of thinking, why me, and, what could I have done differently in my life to avoid this?  Better diet, less stress, less drinking?  

I went round in circles for a while and then to maintain my own sanity, rightly or wrongly, I convinced myself that it was just bad luck. During this difficult time I went online and googled information about cancer and it’s causes.  I have stage 3 hormone receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, the most common occurring in 75% of cases.  

Research suggests that alcohol affects the level of this hormone (Estrogen) and is therefore considered to be a contributing factor to causing ER+ breast cancer.  So it was no surprise to me during visits to the hospital that questions arose from doctors involving my consumption of alcohol.  My oncologist told me that the recommended level of consumption at the conclusion of treatment is 3 units a week.  I was easily drinking 3+ per night.  I had to make some changes in my life.  No doubt about it.

After two operations I commenced chemotherapy in April.  I found out then the amazing work of the staff at the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre (WBCC) who provide a service to the greater Wellington District including the Wairarapa and patients from as far south as Nelson and as far north as the Hawkes Bay.

The staff who work there have a busy and emotionally tough job but at all times they remain professional, sensitive and compassionate.  When I became aware they were a fundraising beneficiary of Dry July it provided the impetus for me to participate in Dry July to help raise money for such a worthy group of medical professionals.  

The money will go towards making cancer treatment for adults more comfortable, not only for patients but also their families and supporters.  In previous years this has included lounge chairs, televisions, tea and coffee facilities.  

For out of town patients it assists families with living away from home.  Initially I felt that asking for donations was a bit self serving but this is not just about me. Cancer is so predominant in our lives. When I ask for donations I give my friends and colleagues the alarming stats; 1/3 of New Zealanders will experience cancer, whether it be personally or through a relative or a friend.

Eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in New Zealand every day. Any donation goes towards making a difference to the level of service that the WBCC provides.  

Looking ahead I have a good prognosis.  The tumour has been removed and treatment is providing a degree of assurance that cancer doesn’t return in the future.  I consider myself to be very lucky in the circumstances.  This is my chance to give something back to the WBCC who have helped me and people like me living with cancer.  They truly deserve it.

Bridget x

A personal earthquake...

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Ralph Moore, is experienced at being in dangerous situations.

The Woolston Fire Brigade Station Officer and Christchurch Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Deputy Task Force Leader, has been in the Fire Service for 38 years.

He was among the first to respond after the earthquake which struck Christchurch on February 22, 2011, rushing to the USAR base at Woolston and helping to deploy the Southern USAR team to the central city.

Over the next four weeks he helped co-ordinate rescues all over Christchurch’s city centre including at The Press building and the ChristChurch Cathedral. At the time it was believed up to 23 people could be lying dead in the cathedral.

Ralph oversaw the deconstruction of the cathedral which proved there were no bodies in its ruins.At the time he told the media those days and weeks were a “roller coaster ride”.

“One minute you go from helping people out and then you go to another building where unfortunately someone hasn’t made it.”

In 2013 Ralph faced his own personal danger when he was diagnosed with melanoma. 

After initial surgery he and his wife Denise went ahead with a planned overseas trip to Spain with 13 stitches still in Ralph’s chin. On their return to Christchurch Ralph had to undergo more surgery and radiation, requiring six months off work.

Radiation was tough, he says, he lost 10kg and his sense of taste. “With radiation you get really fried up. It was right in the side of my neck and became so raw I couldn’t even put water on it without yelling.”

Today Ralph is back at work and feeling good, he has returned to his hobby of riding trailbikes and motorbike. He says his body has lost some of its resilience but that isn’t stopping him and Denise returning to Spain in a couple of months.

This time the couple are going to walk 500km of the Christian pilgrimage, Camino de Santiago over 25 days. “It will be an adventure and beats sitting in a bus being ushered around,” he says. Ralph encourages people to support Dry July.

“Anyone going through cancer treatment is going through a very low time in their life, from being bullet proof to very fragile, so any support people can give to provide comforts to them will make a big difference.”

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.