Cancer Connections

Beating Cancer in the Highlands ... This column is brought to you regularly by the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee and is first published in the Lifestyle section of the Southern Highland News. It is designed to inform everybody of matters relating to cancer in our local community and the wider society. We aim to focus on local news, forthcoming events, services and other cancer issues.

Cancer Connections - February 2019

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Saving Life 2019

The campaign launched by Cancer Council for the 2019 NSW election is now well under way. Each time there is a State election, a series of questions is put to the candidates of the major parties which might form the new government.

This year the campaign is entitled “Saving Life 2019” and in the lead up to the March 23rd poll candidates will be asked whether they are prepared to give their support to each of these asks :

1) Strengthen the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 to ensure that people working or socialising in a bar or club in NSW are protected from second-hand smoke.

2) Amend the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 to ban tobacco vending machines and introduce an annual licence fee to encourage retailers to stop selling. These measures will reduce the risk of young people developing this fatal habit and support smokers to quit. 

3) Remove junk food advertising from state owned property to reduce children’s exposure; and support national regulations on food marketing to children.
4) Provide funding for public lymphoedema services across NSW to ensure that people with lymphoedema have timely access to evidence-based care, regardless of where they live.

In my role as the MP Liaison person between Cancer Council and the candidates in the seat of Wollondilly, I will ask the aspirants for the Liberal and Labor parties (Nathaniel Smith and Jo-Ann Davidson respectively) to respond to these four questions. Their answers will be posted here. Since there is a possibility that the independent Judith Hannan could be elected after preferences are distributed, I shall record her responses as well.

(Further explanation about each of these campaign issues can be found on the website of Cancer Council NSW.)

The candidates’ responses are summarised below. Naturally, they were not all familiar with the four issues raised by the Cancer Council campaign. That was part of the exercise – to have them engage with those issues and consider giving their support. I gave each a copy of the “Saving Life 2019” booklet so that they could look more closely at the proposals and the evidence-based case for them.

On (1) above :
All three candidates readily agreed with strengthening the Smoke-free Environment Act.

On (2) above :
* Nathaniel was not sure yet. He first wanted to check out which Government department or agency is responsible for tobacco vending machines and who would operate a licence system.
* Jo-Ann did not oppose this one but was concerned about one aspect which she raised : “If the smaller retailers stop selling tobacco, that will mean that the two big supermarket chains will gain an even bigger monopoly in tobacco sales”.
* Judith promptly agreed with the proposal.

On (3) above :
* Nathaniel was cautious at first on this but agreed it would be worthwhile, especially in coping with the food industry lobby groups.
* Jo-Ann agreed. She did raise an issue of federal vs state responsibilities in the area of food marketing.
* Judith supported the proposal.

On (4) above :
All three candidates readily agreed with providing increased funding for public lymphoedema services. All saw that it was a matter of finding the money to do it.

Mount Kosciuszko Challenge

Rare Cancers Australia is holding its Mount Kosciuszko Challenge & inaugural “Parliament to Peak” cycle ride in March. This climb to the summit has become an enjoyable annual event for Rare Cancers Australia and its supporters as well as being a significant fundraiser for the organisation. Last year saw 500 people take part. The actual climb from Thredbo to the peak will happen Saturday March 2. But this year there is an exciting new additional (optional) activity, no doubt due to the involvement of cycling enthusiast, Zac Hulm, within RCA. The P2P Cycle Challenge component, for those who are up for it, will leave Parliament House in Canberra on the morning of February 28th, stay overnight in Cooma, then ride along the Monaro Highway and up the Alpine Way to finish in Thredbo Village on the afternoon of March 1st. Full details of the climb itself and what it involves, and the cycle ride, can be found by visiting the RCA website at

March Charge for Cancer Council

Walk or run, in a team or do it solo. It’s your Charge and your choice. The March Charge is a fun personal fitness challenge that has an enormous impact on how cancer is researched and treated. Just by walking or running for Cancer Council this March, and by raising funds, you can help Charge ahead with cancer research, prevention, advocacy and support services. The work of Cancer Council NSW is spread across the whole range of various forms of cancer. You can choose to go solo or get your friends, family, and colleagues together and do it as a team – it’s up to you. Charge anywhere and at anytime you like. You can Charge in the morning with your family or walk with your colleagues at lunch. Find out more about how to get organised at the Cancer Council NSW website :

Community Wellness Festival

A “Rhythm of Life” event will be held in March in the beautiful grounds of Retford Park, Old South Road, Bowral. As you know, James Fairfax AC gifted his grand home and surrounding gardens to the National Trust who are making the site available for selected community events. On the weekend of March 9-10, a Community Wellness Festival will be held to promote awareness of various practices which stem from Eastern philosophies of wellbeing. Local practitioners and individuals will be on hand to highlight their approaches to healthy living. An exhibition from a private collection of Indian and Asian art, textiles and artefacts will also be on display. Contact details : email to or telephone 02 4861 1933.

Coming Events
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group, 10am, Tues. Feb. 26 RSVP Katie
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Wed. Feb. 27
• March has the March Charge for Cancer Council – see details above
• Mount Kosciuszko Challenge for RCA, Sat. March 2 – see details above
• Community Wellness Festival, Retford Park, 10am-4pm March 9 & 10
• Can Assist Meeting, Mittagong RSL, 10am March 12
• Watch out for the next Southern Highlands Can Assist event – details next month, here in this column and on our website.

Grahame Hackett (Chair, Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - February 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Haematology services improved

Readers of this blog will know that our Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee, aided by good publicity in the Southern Highland News, has long advocated for an improvement to haematology services in our district. Having commenced our campaign way back in 2011, we can at last recognise that success has arrived. From January this year, public patients can now have a consultation with a specialist haematologist at the Cancer Centre within the Southern Highlands Private Hospital and, more importantly, public patients can now receive their treatment there as well. This is a most significant advance since previously they were required to travel to Liverpool for every treatment.

The successful outcome for uninsured patients would not have been achieved without the sustained backing of Prof Geoff Delaney, Director, Cancer Services, South West Sydney Local Health District. The initiative has also been progressed by collaboration between the Southern Highlands Private Hospital and the LHD, in particular through the work of Jenny Harper, CEO of the private hospital, and the support of Prof Stephen Della-Fiorentina, medical oncologist and member of our committee.

Can Assist fundraiser results
We are able to happily report on the most successful fundraising activity held recently by the Southern Highlands branch of Can Assist. The luncheon Sunday@Centennial was planned as their major fundraiser for the year. Along with its associated auction, raffle and donations, the whole event altogether raised just over $18,000 net. With 102 guests attending, and many more having purchased raffle tickets beforehand, the result is a record boost to Can Assist’s financial position. That amount will actually cover our local branch’s expenditure in support of patients for a little over 3 months. The encouraging result is a tribute to the efforts of Can Assist’s volunteers, donors and supporters.

Patient Transport for 10 years
The Cancer Council bus which takes Southern Highlands cancer patients up to Campbelltown and back each day has now been operating for 10 years. That is an enormous achievement considering that it has been operated the whole time by volunteer drivers. To celebrate this milestone, and also to acknowledge the retirement of Terry Liebmann, who has been one of the e drivers all through those years, a function will be held at Mittagong RSL at 2.30pm on Wednesday, February 28.

Mount Kosciuszko Challenge

Walking to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko has now become an annual event for supporters of the Rare Cancers Australia charity. Each year the initiative, founded by Bowral locals Kate and Richard Vines, has seen increased numbers join in the activity. This year’s participants will be gathering at Thredbo National Park, 8.00 am Saturday, March 17, with a target of $200,000. More information on the RCA website at For registrations, which close on March 10, go to

The March Charge for Cancer Council
Also on the fitness theme : The March Charge is a fun personal fitness challenge. By walking or running for Cancer Council this March, and by raising funds, you can help them Charge ahead with cancer research, prevention, advocacy and support services. You can choose to go solo or get your friends, family, or colleagues together and do it as a team – it’s up to you! For all information, visit

Coming Events
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group, 10am, Tues. Feb 27 RSVP Katie
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Wed. Feb 28
• “The March Charge” is on in March 2018. See item above.
• Can Assist Meeting at BDCU, Bowral, 10am, March 13
• Mount Kosciuszko Challenge for RCA, Sat. March 17. See item above.

Grahame Hackett (Chair, Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - February 2017

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cancer Services Directory 2017
Each year the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee provides the text for the Cancer Services Directory which is published by Southern Highland News as a free special booklet. This year’s issue will be the 9th edition of the Directory and its theme will be aspects of palliative care. This is certainly a topical issue right now here in the Southern Highlands, as it is across NSW, so it is timely that we inform readers about the role of palliative care for cancer patients. The March edition of this column (on the 3rd Wednesday of the month) will indicate the actual date on which the issue of Southern Highland News will carry the booklet.

Committee consulted for Cancer Plan
At the February meeting of our committee we were pleased to welcome Leah D’Souza who came to consult with us about cancer issues. Leah is the consultant working with staff from NSW Health to develop a new Cancer Plan for the South Western Sydney Local Health District. The District stretches from Bankstown and Fairfield in the north across seven LGAs to Wingecarribee in the south and contains a population of about 820,000. It was an indication of the standing achieved by the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee as a community-based consultative body that our input was sought on a range of issues affecting cancer patients and their treatment. The Cancer Plan will be the means by which the Local Health District will focus and prioritise its efforts to improve its range of cancer services.

Can Assist to meet at BDCU
Those who attend the monthly meetings of the Southern Highlands branch of Can Assist will now have a new venue for all future meetings. The branch, which previously met at the old Bowral Hospital, has now accepted the generous offer from the BDCU Alliance Bank for the use of one of their rooms for its meetings. 
Many thanks to BDCU – we all know the building at 411 Bong Bong Street, Bowral – for once again demonstrating its exceptional commitment to providing support to members of its local community.

Healthy Lifestyle Program
Coming this year : a free program from Cancer Council NSW for cancer survivors, carers, partners and family. The face-to-face group sessions will be facilitated by a dietitian and exercise physiologist and involve 2 hours per week for 8 weeks.

A course will be held at Narellan in the Macarthur region on Saturdays, commencing on Feb. 11th, from 10am-12 noon.
For full details and the schedule of where all sessions will be held, visit the Cancer Council NSW website at 
Reservations are essential; telephone 1300 360 541 or email

Coming Events
• February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month; Teal Ribbon Day will be on Feb. 24
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Wed. Feb. 22
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group meet at SH Private Hospital, 10-11.30 am, Tues. Feb. 28. RSVP to Katie on 4862 9469.
• Feel the March Charge. Walk or run, solo or team, for Cancer Council this March. See
• Can Assist meeting March. 9, 10am. Note new venue : BDCU, Bong Bong St, Bowral
• Mount Kosciuszko Challenge, March 18. A fundraiser by Rare Cancers Australia, this involves a climb from Thredbo to the summit. To register, visit
• “Bounce Forward” program at SH Private Hospital, March 25-26. For information or a booking, contact Jo Pearson, Nursing Unit Manager, Cancer Centre 4862 9472.

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - March 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Progress on removing chemo co-payments
Following on from the announcement in this column last month of improvements to the Isolated Patient Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), we now have a further health development in the NSW election campaign. The Labor Opposition has stated that, if elected to government, it will abolish all co-payments for chemotherapy treatment. This is another valuable reform because currently some patients have to make a co-payment at public hospitals each time they begin a new chemo treatment, yet other patients at different public hospitals are not required to pay at all. It is quite an anomaly. Mr Baird has stated that his Government is considering dropping the co-payment. It is hoped that the Liberal-Nationals will now give a firm commitment to match this improvement.

STOP PRESS : On Sunday, March 22, the Liberal Government has announced that they will remove the co-payments for chemotherapy required for treatment of cancer and for the drugs for treatment of HIV, hepatitis, cystic fibrosis and organ transplants as well. This brings to a successful conclusion the lengthy campaign by Cancer Council NSW and its advocates for an end to the anomaly.

Cancer Services Directory 2015
The material for this year’s Southern Highlands Cancer Services Directory has now been sent to the printers. Its focus will be what happens when there is a cancer diagnosis within a family and what help is available for families in that situation. This 2015 edition – our 7th one – will be a bumper issue because for the first time it will be combined with the Southern Highlands Health Guide to make a super-sized 56-page health booklet. It comes out on Wednesday, March 25th, free in that day’s Southern Highland News. Make sure you get your copy.

The March Charge
Since one in every three cancers can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle, Cancer Council has introduced “The March Charge” : to encourage the community to run all of the kilometres they can during the month of March, and raise money to aid cancer research, prevention programs and support services. So this March, enlist to push yourself at least 1/3 further or faster or harder than usual. Run all the kilometres you can and help obliterate cancer once and for all. Find out more at

Haematology services in the Southern Highlands

Did you know that, since last year, specialist haematology consultation services are available at the Southern Highlands Private Hospital, Bowral, on two days each month ? Dr Silvia Ling visits on the 1st Monday of each month and Dr Nicole Wong Doo visits on the 2nd Tuesday. Referrals can be made via the Haematology Department at Liverpool : telephone 8738 5167 or fax 8738 5176.

Bounce Forward ! 
The valuable initiative ‘Bounce Forward’ (previously called ‘Living Well’) is a two-day program which will be held at the Southern Highlands Private Hospital on Saturday and Sunday, 21st and 22nd March. To find out more or to make a booking, contact Jo Pearson, the Nursing Unit Manager at the Cancer Centre, on 4862 9472.

Coming Events
• ‘Bounce Forward’ program, Sat.-Sun., March 21-22. Details above.
• Cancer Services Directory free copy in SH News, Wed. March 25th
• National Smile Day inspired by Clown Doctors, April 1st
• Can Assist meeting, Thurs. April 9th, 10am at the old Bowral Hospital

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or


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