Tag Archive for: client stories

In March 2022, Allan wasn’t feeling like himself: “You know your body and you know when something’s not right. I would have probably ignored the symptoms for a while, but my wife just made a GP appointment, and I did as I was told.”

Based in Orange, in the Central Tablelands of NSW, Allan underwent a series of tests locally, and was formally diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2022. He was referred to Canberra for a PET scan to rule out any spread. Allan local GP noted:

“Your wife just saved your life!”

Allan and Sue

Allan with his wife, Sue, who live in Orange NSW.

In August 2022, Allan started 20 rounds of radiotherapy in his hometown, when he was prescribed a drug that was not listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Worryingly, it was going to cost Allan $84,000 over two years. Allan paid for the first month wondering how he was going to come up with the rest of the payments.

After consultation with his medical oncologist, it was determined the dose could be quartered and retain effectiveness, which meant the drug would now cost Allan $21,000 over two years — a welcome relief, but “that sort of money really bites”.

It was a social worker who approached Can Assist Orange for support, and helpfully funded the next four months of medication and agreed to fund a further four months in year two, which proved to be a relief for Allan:

“I was really gob smacked by the generosity of Can Assist and am so grateful. To know there are people in the community looking out for others who they don’t even know … that makes me think about what the volunteers do and how much they give,” he says.

Thankfully, the cancer drugs had no side effects for Allan — only the steroids he was also required to take generated minor effects. In fact, the drug has been so effective that Allan will now cease taking it after just 18 months, with a good prognosis.

Now, he’s looking forward to living a long and healthy life alongside his wife Sue, their daughters Melinda, Kylie and Tegan, and eight grandchildren.

Darroll is a proud octogenarian, who is now cancer free. Describing himself as a “survivor”, he’s living his best life with wife, Patty, three children and six grandchildren, enjoying every precious moment and some awe-inspiring life experiences, like skydiving! For Darroll, his extended cancer journey has given him a new lease on life.

Darroll

Darroll from near Tumbarumba in south-west NSW

Back in 2010, Darroll, who lives 20 kilometres from Tumbarumba in south-west NSW, was experiencing intense pain. His local GP sent him to Wagga Wagga, where a tumour, the size of a “little-kid football”, was picked up on a CT scan. Following an emergency trip to Sydney, he was formally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

What transpired was a harrowing time for Darroll and his close-knit family, which included weekly trips to Wagga Wagga for eight rounds of R-CHOP or chemoimmunotherapy. However, after round seven, Darroll developed a lung infection, requiring 32 different antibiotics and four blood transfusions. He lost 15 kilograms.

Facing the prospect of 20 rounds of radiotherapy, and daily return travel between home and Wagga Wagga, he and Patty were bearing the weight of a huge emotional, physical and financial strain, made even more traumatic when a kidney stent became blocked and Darroll ended up with blood poisoning and his kidneys ultimately collapsed.

Thankfully, Darroll recovered. He thought it was the last of the illness.

In 2019, seven years later, Darroll was diagnosed with prostate cancer — and an all-too-familiar 20 rounds of radiotherapy began. This time, Darroll and Patty stayed at Lilier Lodge in Wagga Wagga, a warm and  supportive home-away-from-home for cancer patients travelling long distances for treatment, like Darroll.

“Lilier Lodge is a marvelous place to stay at while having treatment. It’s like one big, happy family who were there for you at all times making it easier to cope, says Darroll.

“It really made a difference being around people who understood each other, not just for me, but also for Patty who had other carers to lean on. We talked, we listened, shared our stories and had each other’s back.”

Darroll would like to thank Can Assist Tumbarumba branch:

“Without the help of the branch, things would have been a lot harder for me. They assisted me during my cancer treatments, paying many accounts, including medical out-of-pocket expenses and travelling costs. Plus, the members had talked to me about what I was going through and if they could help in other ways,” he says.

“What a wonderful organisation we have here in Tumbarumba, with exceptional and kind workers. A lot of stress and worries were avoided so I could concentrate on getting better. Thanks a lot for everything. Let’s hope it’s there forever to keep on helping all those in need. I give them 100 out of 100 for their assistance.”

In March 2018, not even a year after the birth of her 4th daughter, 27-year-old Laura was diagnosed cancer. She was given half a days’ notice to be in Sydney some 470km away.

Her initial surgery was brutal “they had to cut through my back, all the way across to my left breast. My ribs were cracked, and my lungs deflated… after 6 weeks in hospital in Sydney it took another 6 months recovery at home before I could walk again.” Laura Grabbo

Not getting the results they wanted, doctors administered some three different types of chemotherapy over the following three years. Each round was delivered in Sydney, meaning Laura had to travel and accommodate in Sydney every couple of months for several nights at a time.

Laura’s from Boggabri, a small town in north-east NSW

After a year off treatment in order to regain some strength, Laura re commenced oral chemotherapy from home this year. Her side effects have been extreme; nausea, memory loss, vertigo, blurred vision, migraines and sores that don’t heal. Laura’s feet are red raw with multiple blisters.

Not surprisingly, her husband Codie stopped work some time ago – not only to look after their four children (now 11, 9, 7 and 6) but also his wife. Laura’s mum is not far away in Gunnedah and she has been “a constant help… mum goes without so much for my sake.” Laura Grabbo

It was Laura’s mum who first told her about Can Assist all those years ago. “Can Assist has been there since the beginning … Chris Pullman, Client Liaison Officer, Can Assist Gunnedah is such a support to me …someone I can talk to, she calls in and we have coffee together, she is my rock.”

Can Assist has helped Laura’s family with a range of expenses including new tyres, car registrations, Coles vouchers, washing and dryer machine repairs, and out of pocket specialist consults.

As with all our clients – we remain a support until the cancer is beat.

“Laura is a kind and courageous woman and I am so grateful for the friendship we have developed. Had it not been for Can Assist, I never would have had the privilege of knowing her.” Chris Pullman, Client Liaison Officer, Can Assist Gunnedah

At just 41 years of age Bernie, father of 4 children under 10 and husband of Samantha, was diagnosed with brain cancer.

It all started back in 2017 with bad headaches. After multiple trips to Griffith Base Hospital (70km one way), it was the local doctor who ordered the cat scan that identified an urgent need for further investigation. – Additional scans conducted at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital (170km one way) revealed a brain tumor, so Bernie was rushed to Sydney (630km one way) via air ambulance. Surgery took place the next day.

The rollercoaster continued; 8 weeks of radiotherapy, followed by regular trips back to Sydney; initially every month, then every 2 months, and then tapering off to twice annually. A second tumor was identified at the end of 2021 and a third tumor at the end of 2022. Another surgery, another two sets of radiotherapy – all conducted in Sydney, almost 7 hours away from his hometown.

Bernie receiving treatment at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.

 

With the exception of the two surgeries Bernie needed to source non-hospital accommodation in Sydney on every trip.

Distance from treatment magnifies the impact of cancer on every level – financially, physically and psychologically.

“Sam (Bernie’s wife) and Izzy (youngest daughter) stayed with me in Sydney over my first surgery…but by the time of my second surgery all the kids were at school and, with my income being so unpredictable Sam needed to go back to work. It was just so daunting; I didn’t know what to ask the doctors and I didn’t remember all the details, especially when it came to the side effects. The costs were piling up – huge out of pockets with radiotherapy, scans costing near $1,000 each time, then travel and accommodation.

“Can Assist have been supporting me from the early days and they took away that initial financial burden …they were the first to help, took away those pain points early, it just meant so much to me. Having the support of my community through Can Assist goes way beyond the dollars …it was like they were in it with me” Bernie Star, Coleambally

Can Assist continues to support Bernie. “Cancer isn’t a one stop fix and nor are we …. we continue to support our clients for as long as they need usSue Hardy, President and Patient Liaison Officer, Can Assist Coleambally

Bernie and his family today, still smiling, but it’s been a long road.