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 - March 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Patient Transport Drivers’ celebration
Mittagong RSL was the venue for a celebration provided for the volunteer drivers who take cancer patients in the Cancer Council bus up to Campbelltown and back for anything up to five days per week. The function was held to mark the 10 year anniversary of this necessary service for Wingecarribee patients being treated at the Macarthur Cancer Therapy centre. It also recognised the achievement of Terry Liebmann who has been the volunteer local co-ordinator of the drivers for all that time. Terry has now stepped down from that role and the celebration acknowledged his essential contribution. I was able to call in for part of the event and what was impressive was the large group of drivers involved, men and women, and the great spirit which clearly exists between them. Maybe this explains the striking fact that, of the 12 original volunteers, 8 of them are still taking part after 10 years. Their excellent assistance to patients has been further recognised by the fact that Cancer Council has just provided a brand new bus to replace the original one.



Pictured above are the team of bus drivers who make the system work. 

Retiring co-ordinator, Terry Liebmann, is standing 5th from the right.


Rotary BowelCare program
I have received word from BowelCare Australia that their voluntary screening program carried out under the auspices of the Rotary Club of East Gosford will be operating all through April and May this year. This means that anytime in those two months people can purchase a BowelCare test kit for $15 from local pharmacies. The price includes pathology testing, with notification of your result to both yourself and your nominated doctor. Your result will be issued within 30 days of your test kit being received by pathology. Most of our local pharmacies take part in the program and a full listing is available on the website www.bowelcare.org.au

Blood Cancer Support Group

For some time now, people who are blood cancer patients in the Southern Highlands have had support available through The Leukaemia Foundation. Part of this help involved the benefit of having a blood cancer support group which was co-ordinated by Rachael Seath. A new co-ordinator has now been appointed to that role : Snezana Djordjevic and she can be contacted at the Leukaemia Foundation’s Wollongong office on 4222 0601. Their useful website is at http://leukaemia.org.au and their email address is info@leukaemia.org.au


Cancer Services Directory 2018
On the same theme, the 2018 issue of our Southern Highlands Cancer Services Directory will have as its focus the important topic of blood cancers. A number of special articles will cover aspects of this lesser-known area of the cancer field with the lead article written by a haematologist. Our Directory will be published in May this year in an issue of the Southern Highland News as one of their Special Publications. Anyone wishing to advertise in that A5 booklet can contact the sales staff at the News office on 4861 2333.

New Co-ordinator for GAPS

A quick mention that we now have Cheryl Hinton assisting with the co-ordination of the GAPS program. Cheryl is a most welcome recruit since she provides relief for Joan Harrison who has fulfilled that role so well over so many years. You can read more about the General and Practical Support service here on this website; just go to the QuickLink on the LHS of screen. The GAPS contact number remains the same : 0428681926 M-F, 9am-5pm.


Coming Events
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group, 10am, Tues. March 27 RSVP Katie
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, March 28
• Can Assist Meeting at BDCU Bowral, 10am, April 10

Grahame Hackett (Chair, Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee)
0407 234 780 or info@sh-cancerconnect.com.au


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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 www.rarecancers.org.au/. For registrations, which close on March 10, go to https://www.kosichallenge.com.au



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  https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/event/the-march-charge/

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 info@sh-cancerconnect.com.au


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Cancer Connections - July 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Travelling for Portacath
Patients requiring the insertion of a Portacath device for the administration of their cancer treatment can have this done easily here in the Southern Highlands - that is, provided they have private health insurance. But you may not know that Highlands patients without health insurance need to travel to either Liverpool or Concord Hospitals to have this done, as public patients. We are told that Liverpool continues to have a 10-week waiting list, so that it usually means a journey to Concord, although the actual operation can be done within about 30 minutes. Quite frequently, these patients require transport to Concord and back by our GAPS service (General and Practical Support) which is staffed by our local volunteers. Obviously it is a lengthy journey for a person undergoing treatment.

If an operating theatre at Bowral & District Hospital were to be made available for those times at which a public patient needed the insertion, we know that there are local doctors who would be willing to perform the operation here in the Highlands. (For this to happen, Bowral & District would need to be accredited for vascular surgery.) We have been advised by the Hospital’s General Manager that the portacath issue is “currently under discussion” and our committee will continue to pursue a solution.


Cancer Council car helps to fill some GAPS

Last month I reported that Cancer Council NSW have provided a new car for the use of those GAPS drivers mentioned above. It means that, each day, one volunteer can leave his own car at home and instead take the Toyota RAV4 with its Cancer Council logo. That car has certainly been at work : already it has covered 3000km in its first 3 weeks of operation. While on the statistics, I can say that, in total during 2016-17, the GAPS volunteer drivers transported 417 passengers over 816 trips covering 37,000 km to treatment, appointments etc. In the same period, our other volunteer service, the Cancer Council Patient Transport Bus - taking cancer patients to Campbelltown for radiation treatment - transported 718 passengers over 1,400 trips and travelled 40,000km. Truly amazing support from local people. Any Southern Highlands men or women interested in volunteering as a driver are asked to contact Sally Lewis at Cancer Council's Wollongong office, 4223 0205.


Rare Cancers Australia

At our July meeting, our committee member, Richard Vines, a Director of Rare Cancers Australia, reported on a number of his organisation’s recent achievements. These include successfully applying for a drug to be listed on the PBS for use with rare cancer patients, launching a national database to identify specialist clinicians who have expertise in particular forms of rare and less common cancer, and developing close working relationships with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, pharmaceutical companies and the Peter MacCallum Institute. RCA has also been involved in upgrading their successful app for cancer patients called CAN.recall which has now been translated into Mandarin as well. For this and more information about the work of Rare Cancers Australia, visit their website at www.rarecancers.org.au/


Coming Events
• July is Dry July
• PAWS Pet Therapy function, Centennial Vineyards, July 22, 5-10pm.
PAWS Pet Therapy volunteers needed : ring Sharon Stewart 46810499
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group, 10am, Tues. July 25 RSVP Katie
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Wed. July 26
• Jeans for Genes Day in aid of Children's Medical Research Institute, August 5
• Dying to Know Day for end-of-life planning, August 8

• RCA CanForum in Canberra, August 9. See RCA website www.rarecancers.org.au/

• Can Assist Annual Branch Meeting, 10am August 8 at BDCU, Bowral.
• RCA event : “Passion on the Field”, Randwick Racecourse, August 19
• Daffodil Day, Friday August 25

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or info@sh-cancerconnect.com.au


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Cancer Connections - June 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

“Connecting the Future” seminar success

This event was organised for Palliative Care Week by the Southern Highlands Community Hospice committee. Speakers included Dr Yvonne McMaster OAM, the retired palliative care specialist who initiated the “Push for Palliative” campaign, and Jane Mahony, a local senior nurse consultant in the field. An audience numbering about 80 heard informative presentations from both and later gained an insight into current planning for the hospice building to be constructed in Bowral. The draft drawings for the building were on display and stimulated much discussion.

Visit of the Premier to Bowral
June 6 saw the visit by Premier Gladys Berejiklian to the Southern Highlands. A public meeting of 200 locals was hosted by Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell at the Bradman Museum and provided an opportunity for the Premier to speak personally about how she saw her role and to tell us how much she admired all the community work going on in our district.
As I had hoped, I did have an opportunity, after the formal items were over, to speak with the Premier as she mingled. Naturally I wanted to raise the issue of greater resources for palliative care and briefly touched on the main points why this was badly needed. The Premier clearly understands the reasons anyway and nodded as I spoke before she promptly replied : “Grahame, watch this space”.

Announcement on palliative care
Our Cancer Leadership Committee members certainly did “watch this space” and were soon able to see that Gladys had kept her word. On Monday June 12 the NSW Government announced that a record $100 million would be spent over the next four years to increase palliative care services. Out of the numerous benefits which will flow from this extra funding I will just select one : this will mean a much needed improvement in the provision of palliative care throughout regional and rural NSW, areas which have been substantially less well serviced so far. So there is some cause for a sense of achievement among all those who supported this issue : volunteers for Cancer Council NSW; those who “signed the pledge”; those who backed Dr McMaster’s campaign; and ultimately those State MPs from all parties who saw there must be a better way to care for people with a life-limiting illness.
For the latest details on what the Government has announced, please go to our 'News & Events' tab above for the item "Premier's visit to Bowral".



New Car for GAPS drivers !
Here’s a big boost to our free GAPS service to cancer patients – the one which sees those dedicated volunteers driving cancer patients to consultations and treatment and using their own cars to do it. Cancer Council NSW have come good on their promise to provide GAPS drivers with a brand new car. From now on, the “first cab off the rank” you will see transporting a patient – and sometimes the trips are to Liverpool or Concord and back – will be the Toyota RAV4 with its Cancer Council logo. Here is another way in which our community benefits directly from raising funds at events like “Relay for Life” and the hugely successful “Dance for Cancer”.



PAWS Pet Therapy celebration

A dinner will be held by the PAWS Pet Therapy enthusiasts on Saturday July 22 at Centennial Vineyards. Details are on this website under the News & Events tab. This is an innovative organisation of dog owners who take their beautiful pets into hospitals and nursing homes to bring cheer to so many. They can always accommodate more pet lovers so if you and your dog can volunteer, ring Sharon Stewart on 4681 0499.


Coming Events
• June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month
• July is Dry July

• Can Assist meeting Tuesday, July 11, 10am at BDCU, Bowral

• PAWS Pet Therapy function, Centennial Vineyards, July 22, 5-10pm. Details above.
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group, 10am, Tues. July 25 RSVP Katie on 4862 9400
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Wed. July 26

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or info@sh-cancerconnect.com.au


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Cancer Connections - September 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Smoking rates in NSW are changing
Data from NSW Health shows that the younger generations are driving a dramatic drop in smoking rates while rusted-on older smokers are finding it harder to quit or have given up. Across the board, smoking rates have dropped another two percentage points from 15.6% to 13.5%. The population survey, which interviews roughly 13,000 people across the state every year, found that smoking rates have declined by 10% since 2003. But among 45-54 year-olds, smoking rates jumped more than two per cent. They hardly budged among people aged 65 and over, and rose slightly among those aged 75 and over. Anita Dessaix, Manager of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Institute NSW, commented that the message, particularly for older people, is not to despair but to keep trying. There is hope and support for them to quit smoking.













Please note : For lots of tips on where to turn for Quit Smoking support, take a look at our webpage under the Prevention tab above, or just click here

Parliamentary support
We were joined at the Daffodil Day stall in Springetts Arcade this August by Jai Rowell, MP for Wollondilly. Besides adding his backing for this annual fundraiser, Jai also signed the Cancer Council pledge “I care for palliative care”, as part of the current campaign. Following this, we discussed the issue of haematology services for local patients without private health cover and found that the local member undertook to take up the matter with senior Health personnel. Such political support is significant to our drive for better patient outcomes on both of those issues.

“Push for Palliative” Petition
Last week, Thursday September 15, saw further discussion in the NSW Parliament on the petition for more palliative care. Margaret Mogg, a member of our committee, and Virginia Adlide, local “Push for Palliative” Ambassador, were among the supporters from regional NSW supplementing those from Sydney. Over 80 people packed the public gallery to hear the third debate on the petition which has been signed by over 83,000 citizens. This requests staff increases in palliative care medical specialists, specialist nurses and Aboriginal health workers and was presented by the Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, who described the current enhancement to palliative care services. Other speakers supporting the petition were Adam Crouch (Lib.) MP for Terrigal, Jenny Aitchson (Lab.) MP for Maitland, Trish Doyle (Lab.) MP for the Blue Mountains and David Harris (Lab.) MP for Wyong. Hearing the passion of the speakers we can only hope that the momentum for the campaign will continue and a positive outcome will be achieved.

And in case you missed it :
There were a number of fine speeches made by new members of Federal Parliament this month. These included first speeches by Linda Burney (MP for Barton), Senator Malarndirri McCarthy (NT), and the one by Julian Leeser (MP for Berowra) recounting the sad story of his father’s suicide.

Coming Events

• Southern Highlands Spring Auto Fair at Berrima Public School, Sunday, Sept. 25, 9am to 2pm. For more information, contact Darren Freer 0439110358 or Phil Walmsley 0438402797 or email: shspringautofair@gmail.com Funds to support the SH Cancer Centre Trust Fund.

• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group meet at SH Private Hospital, 10.30am, Sept. 27. RSVP Jo or Katie on 4862 9470

• Look Good Feel Better program at SH Private Hospital, Sept. 27. For details and to register, visit their website at www.lgfb.org.au/workshop or telephone 1800 650 960.

• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Sept. 28.
• Can Assist meeting, Thursday, Oct. 13th, 10am at the old Bowral Hospital
• Pink Ribbon Day will be Friday, Oct. 21, supporting women with breast or gynaecological cancer.

• Rare Cancer Australia’s Sick or Treat Charity Ball, Fri. Oct. 28 : visit RCA website at https://www.rarecancers.org.au


Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or info@sh-cancerconnect.com.au




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Cancer Connections - August 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Haematology hardship

If you are a reader of this column, you will be aware that we have a lack of haematology services in the Southern Highlands. (If you missed the story, go to the Cancer Connections tab above and scroll down to our July column. Further detailed information is available on the LHS of the screen by clicking on the Local Issues link to "Haematology services".) 


An uninsured patient can have a consultation at Bowral and District Hospital with a haematologist who comes from Liverpool. But for their treatment, the uninsured patient must still travel to Liverpool every time. The result, unfortunately, is that uninsured patients with a haematology diagnosis, such as leukaemia, myeloma, or other blood cancers, must make costly, time-consuming and stressful journeys to Liverpool on a regular basis. It is often family members or carers who must share this burden. And if no-one is able to get the patient to their treatment, it is often our volunteer drivers from the GAPS program who have to take them there and back.


Transporting Cancer Patients

Not aware of GAPS ? Our General and Practical Support service provides fully-trained volunteers who transport patients to and from medical appointments and treatment. Sometimes it means going all the way to Liverpool Hospital and return. Sometimes it involves transport to and from a pickup location for the Patient Transport Service. This is the bus (volunteer drivers again) that takes cancer patients to the Cancer Therapy Centre at Campbelltown. Neither service would be possible without the backing of Cancer Council NSW which provides the bus, petrol, etc and which funds the GAPS drivers’ journeys. For all the details on this transport assistance, go to the Quick Links on the LHS of screen and click on SH Patient Transport or General and Practical Support (GAPS). 






Daffodil Day
A reminder that I mentioned last month the date for Daffodil Day this year : Friday, August 26. Cancer Council always has a number of outlets in the Highlands, based on the major shopping centres. In addition, the Coles organisation has long been a strong supporter and their outlets often have Daffodil Day merchandise available in the week of the event. Every little bit helps, so why not stop by where you see the sign of the daffodil, the symbol for hope. I have invited the State MP for Wollondilly, Jai Rowell, to call in at the stall in Springetts Arcade on that morning. He has readily agreed and will be there sometime around 11am. Call by to show your support for improvements in cancer care.

New committee members

Our Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee was delighted to gain two new members in recent months. Carolyn Le Compte, the Nursing Unit Manager at Wingecarribee Community Nursing here in Bowral, has now joined our popular Mira Glavan, the Clinical Nurse Consultant in Palliative Care. I can also now proudly report that the busy editor of Southern Highland News, Jackie Meyers, has somehow found the time to join us at our monthly meetings. We are most pleased to welcome both as valuable new members.

“Push for Palliative”
This is a good time to mention the widespead efforts to improve palliative services. In a nutshell, there are just not enough palliative care doctors and nurses in the NSW health system. So it’s not possible to give every patient with life-limiting cancer who needs specialist palliative care the access to it, when they need it, wherever they live. That means that some people aren’t able to spend their dying days, weeks, or months, comfortable and pain-free, in a place of their choosing. And it means that some people aren’t treated with the dignity that everyone deserves at end of life. There is a current campaign – “Push for Palliative” spearheaded by Dr Yvonne McMaster and Cancer Council NSW – for more palliative care doctors and nurses and culturally-appropriate specialist palliative care services for Aboriginal people. More details to follow.

Coming Events
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group meet at private hospital, 10am, August 23. RSVP Jo or Katie on 4862 9470
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, August 24.
• Daffodil Day is Friday, August 26. Stall in Springetts Arcade.
• Can Assist meeting, Thursday, Sept. 8th, 10am at the old Bowral Hospital
• Advance Notice : the Southern Highlands Spring Auto Fair is coming to Berrima Public School again on Sunday, Sept. 25, 9am to 2pm. For more information, contact Darren Freer 0439110358 or Phil Walmsley 0438402797 or email: shspringautofair@gmail.com

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or info@sh-cancerconnect.com.au


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