Thank you to Yenda Producers for choosing Can Assist Leeton to do the barbeque at your recent trade day.
Thank you to Yenda Producers for choosing Can Assist Leeton to do the barbeque at your recent trade day.
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.”
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.
Lyn Pauling, 68 yrs., wife of Steve, Mother of 4 adult children, and grandmother to 8. Lyn was born and bred in Leeton.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, skin cancer, near 10,000km of driving, 2 months of hotel accommodation and many more months of treatment was not only emotionally exhausting but financially crippling.
When first diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Lyn was flown to St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney for immediate treatment. Sydney became home for Lyn for the next three months. Steve drove back and forth to Sydney (1,100 kms return per trip) multiple times over this period and spent several weeks in various Sydney accommodation facilities.
Upon returning to Leeton, Lyn would need to undergo chemotherapy treatment in Griffith (120km return per trip) where she would continue going twice a week every 8 weeks for the next two years.
But that was not the end of the story, several months ago, Lyn received a second cancer diagnosis -skin cancer this time. Back to Sydney for more surgery; more travel and more accommodation costs.
Next was radiotherapy at the Cancer Centre in Wagga and unlike her public hospital treatments in metropolitan Sydney, she would incur medical out of pockets. The RCCC required an upfront payment every two weeks for radiotherapy treatment – over $1,000 each time. Whilst Medicare provided a rebate, significant gaps remained. Over this period, Lyn stayed at the not-for-profit accommodation facility – Lilier Lodge, which is part-owned and managed by Can Assist. It was here that Lyn first became acquainted with Can Assist.
By now, Lyn was left thousands of dollars out of pocket over the course of her treatments. To make matters worse, given his repeated time off work, her husband had lost his building job and has never actually found full-time work again.
Can Assist Leeton stepped in – they would pay Lyn’s medical out of pockets, her out-of-pocket accommodation costs for the full 5 weeks stay in Wagga Wagga and they would issue her with multiple petrol vouchers. Without this assistance, Lyn would have been forced to drive back and forth daily, some 250 km, sick and exhausted. Lyn talks with fond memories of her time at Lilier – “It’s so much more than a bed; we had volunteers driving us to treatment, providing group dinners, education, exercise classes…. but most of all it was a safe haven; a family of people all going through the same thing. Lilier and Can Assist made it all so much easier, I will be forever grateful “
Luke Di Salvia, a teacher from Leeton was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 44 yrs. With time off work for surgery and 6 cycles of chemo the bills quickly added up. Luke contacted Can Assist Leeton to help!
“Whilst many things we take for granted scream to a halt during cancer treatment much of the mundane daily grind continues on unabated; there’s still plenty of bills to pay, cars to maintain, dishes to wash, lawns to mow, and kids to feed and clothe. Thankfully Leeton Can Assist were there in the background helping out by easing the burden of unexpected costs, thereby lessening our collective worries and thus helping me to more easily focus on getting better.“
“My second round of chemo fell in early January and so coincided with the Christmas school holidays. With the invaluable assistance of Leeton Can Assist we were able to stay at Lilier Lodge Wagga for my 5 successive days of treatment. Not only did this equate to a massive saving in travel time and cumulative rounds trips of over a thousand kilometres, it gave us a much needed chance to do plenty of fun activities with the kids and take their minds off the fears and uncertainty that comes with their Dad still in the early days of his cancer battle. Whilst I underwent my daily treatments the wife and kids did fun holiday stuff – went to the movies, laser tag, trampolining and shopping, with a central base, only 5 minutes from the Cancer Care Centre and Wagga CBD to return to at the end of the day. For this opportunity, afforded by Leeton Can Assist, we are forever grateful.“
Lamb auction by Breed and Hutchinson Stock and Station agents raised $16,000 for Leeton Can Assist in June. Tim Hutchinson from Breed and Hutchinson previously told The Irrigator that the funds will be used to provided financial assistance to those undergoing treatment for breast cancer, which is primarily based in Wagga. Mr Hutchinson said it was a truly fantastic day and hoped the event would continue to grow like it has been in recent years.
The Over 60’s bowls team at Leeton District Bowling Club have donated $1000 to the Leeton Can Assist branch
At a special match on June 2, Leonie Pullen and Judy McLane from Can Assist were presented with the cheque by Secretary and Treasurer, Kevin Hansen which members of the bowls team had all contributed to from their team kitty over the past year.
Yanco Agricultural High School year 10 student Cleo McLaughlin raised money for Can Assist in October.
Cleo’s beautiful long locks were turned into a classic Australian mullet as she raised money for the Black Dog Institute as part of its Mullets for Mental Health initiative.
Then, Cleo took another huge step shaving off all of her hair raising money for children with cancer.
So far, she has already raised almost $2000 for the Black Dog Institute and more than $1800 for children’s cancer through Can Assist.