I started my career as a radiation therapist eight years ago at Royal Prince Alfred but for the last four years I’ve worked at Liverpool and Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre in radiation oncology.
It’s incredibly rewarding being able to help people at such major points in their life. Obviously our aim is to help people get better during their treatment but supporting people on a day-to-day basis is just as important. While we’re professionals, we make friends with our patients and often form relationships that last years, through both the good and bad times.
Liverpool Cancer Therapy Centre is a centre of excellence where, through our dedicated team, we’re proud to give patients gold standards of care. Making people smile is part of what we do; it’s as much part of the therapy as the treatment. We genuinely see ourselves as a big family and our fundraising helps bring us even closer together.
I was inspired to organise the Dry July Shave Off by a patient. Many people find losing their hair during chemotherapy treatment an incredibly distressing experience as ones appearance can have a profound affect on how they feel. My patient, who had also undergone a mastectomy, was devastated by the loss of her hair and the synthetic wigs she’d been offered had looked unrealistic and been itchy. Seeing her at her lowest ebb I was moved to help. So, I stopped cutting my hair and for two and half years grew it so it would be long enough to donate to a wig library.
To say I came in for some ribbing would be an understatement but that actually gave me the inspiration for the Dry July Shave Off. Because of my long haired resemblance to certain rock stars I decided to start having my picture taken to see how many personalities I could impersonate before it all got cut off. I had the backing of the Director of Radiation Oncology and we partnered with Dry July as they raise money to improve the lives of adults living with cancer. In the way of social media, it went viral and suddenly pictures of me and my colleagues were getting international media attention!
I appeared on Channel 9’s The Today Show (where Karl Stefanovic sniffed and wore my hair live on the show), Channel 7’s and ABC 702 radio. The celebrity impersonations have been published all over the world appearing in the DAILY MAIL, MTV, Huffington Post, Upworthy, SBS online, plus local media.
The culmination of our efforts came on 29th July when 18 cancer therapy staff cut their hair and beards in front of a very enthusiastic crowd at the entrance to Liverpool Hospital. All the ponytails were donated to Sustainable Salons Australia and will go to make wigs for patients with alopecia or for chemo patients across Australia.
So far we’ve raised $36,000 for Liverpool Cancer Therapy Centre. It’s really valuable for both patients and fundraisers to actually see the money in action – great for patient morale and it gives a real boost to future fundraisers seeing what active participation can do.
Our fundraising efforts mean we now have an indoor/outdoor private waiting area of patients and their families, wireless music solutions for our radiation bunkers so patients can have customised playlists that help alleviate anxiety and decorative artwork so the department looks more inviting.
We’re lucky to live and work in a country that offers world-class standards of care and embracing a holistic approach that focuses on patient wellness would definitely help improve the overall care of cancer patients. The CancerAid app certainly embraces both the clinical and psychological areas of cancer care, offering a rounded approach to care. And from a professional point of view it will be highly beneficial to connect with like-minded cancer therapy staff and maybe even coordinate future madcap fundraising schemes through the app too!
If I had any advice for cancer carers it would be to get involved in fundraising, even in a small way. Caring for people with life-altering illnesses can be hard work. Our end point is always to improve the quality of our patient care and experiences but if you can have a little fun AND raise money in the process, that’s amazing.