Leonie’s Story

At 58yrs of age, Leonie – mother of two and retired primary school teacher from Leeton, was diagnosed with melanoma. She had mistaken a mark on her face for a minor irritation, and with it taking 3-4 weeks to get an appointment with the local GP, Leonie let it slide. One day, feeling so unwell, she took herself to the local hospital on a completely unrelated matter and it was there that the medical staff noticed the mark and booked her in for a biopsy the next day.

After diagnosis, Leonie was initially referred to a skin specialist in Griffith (120km return), who advised her that she would need surgery in Melbourne and, that she would need to find her own accommodation since surgery would be performed on an outpatient basis. She would have to book a hotel within walking distance of the clinic, and she need a carer 24/7. Her surgery to remove the cancer along with a required plastic surgeon would be done in a private clinic which would cost Leonie some $4,000. With only $2,000 in savings, Leonie burst into tears.

Before surgery, Leonie was required to undergo 6 weeks of chemotherapy treatment at home in Leeton and it was over this time that she heard about Can Assist Leeton. She met Mary – the local Can Assist President who assured her of their financial support and “most importantly, listened,” said Leonie.

Leonie made two separate trips to Melbourne (some 1,000km return) and spent some 8 nights in commercial accommodation.  Can Assist paid the bill.

Back in Leeton, she would make multiple trips back and forth to Griffith over the next couple of years and just when she thought she was out of the woods, the cancer returned. From here, Leonie would need to undergo daily radiotherapy over a 4-week cycle at Wagga Wagga. Whilst this treatment was considerably closer at only 250km return, it would be too much for Leonie to drive back and forth every day. Can Assist Leeton stepped in again. First, they funded the transport costs of getting her to Wagga, and then they made it possible for her to stay at Lilier Lodge (a not-for-profit accommodation facility, part-owned and operated by Can Assist) by funding her out-of-pocket costs over the NSW government accommodation subsidy scheme for isolated patients (IPTAAS).

“I literally would not have been able to afford access to treatment. My only alternative would have been to borrow money and who would lend a pensioner that sort of money? The only possibility would have been a Centrelink Advance Payment of $1500 which would have entailed a forced payback of $100 a fortnight on my pension. After bills, that $100 would have come out of my food money, it has all been so stressful. I will be forever grateful Can Assist and to Lilier Lodge for their help and compassion” Leonie James

Leonie is back at home now, well, and excited about the future ahead of her.