On 30th August 2023, 61-year-old Kathleen Siemionow received a clean bill of health. For the Leeton resident, who has endured several cancer diagnoses over the years, her most recent experience with melanoma was made more bearable with the care and support of her local Can Assist branch, who she had been reluctant to ask for help.
“There is always someone worse off … I hadn’t wanted to ask. But, as a pensioner with two child dependents, I bit the bullet and called. Mary from the Leeton branch came out to see me in my home, she was really beautiful with me — made me feel so at ease,” says Kathleen, or Kathy, as she is better known.
“Can Assist has helped me out with doctors bills, pharmacy accounts and accommodation out-of-pockets. I was just stunned. What these people do is amazing!”
Over the course of her five months of treatment, Kathy made bi-monthly visits to Sydney, which involved one to two days of appointments each time, and a six-hour drive one way. As the primary carer for two of her grandchildren, aged nine and 16 (pictured), the distance and time away was a heavy burden for her.
“I had to get home as soon as I could, my granddaughter would really fret when I was not with her … there were a lot more logistics to consider since I was no longer living in Sydney,” she says.
Kathy with her beloved granddaughters while undergoing cancer treatment.
Formerly from Liverpool in Sydney, Kathy is grateful to have had long-time friend, Kaz, to lean on during her treatment for melanoma: “Kaz was such a rock for me, she was so very kind to me and the girls — I don’t know what I would have done without her.”
Kathy (right) and Kaz (left), her ‘rock’ during cancer treatment.
Reflecting on her experience, Kathy recalls it all started with a visit to her GP because she was in a lot of pain. After a series of scans in Griffith, she was eventually diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma in her lymph nodes, requiring two separate rounds of immunotherapy in Sydney followed by an operation in mid-July this year.
Kathy says she was able to use every bit of strength to keep up the fight thanks to Can Assist: “I don’t know how cancer patients from the country manage without Can Assist.”