Today, 4 February, is World Cancer Day and the theme this year is “Close the Care Gap”. It’s about raising awareness of the equity gap that affects so many individuals and communities and costs the lives of those impacted by cancer. Income, education, geographical location, and discrimination based on ethnicity, age or lifestyle are just some of the many factors that can negatively affect someone’s cancer care.
Back in 2000, through her own experience with breast disease, Ros Worthington saw that gap in care for West Australians facing breast cancer and decided to do something about it. And that’s how Breast Cancer Care WA was started, from the boot of Ros’ car, with no money but a lot of dedication, commitment, and care.
Go forward 20 years and Breast Cancer Care WA now provides support to over 1300 individual and families facing breast cancer every year, with specialist breast care nursing, counselling, financial and practical support. That support is provided free of charge to anyone in Western Australia. It’s not means tested. You don’t have to be referred by a medical practitioner. You just have to call. Which is what Lisa did.
“Breast Cancer Care WA really saved me. When I was diagnosed, I was a single parent of two young children, with a mortgage. I couldn’t work during chemo and Breast Cancer Care WA sent me food vouchers that literally enabled me to buy food for my kids, and petrol vouchers so I could get to Charlies for treatment, all the way from Quinns Rocks,” said Lisa.
“Without Breast Cancer Care WA I wouldn’t have had a breast care nurse and a counsellor to step me through my treatment, to hold my hand when I was crying. Someone who was so caring and nurturing and could just tell me everything was going to be ok, and I was going to be OK.”
Unfortunately, stories like Lisa’s are all too common. One in seven women will get breast cancer before the age of 85 and whilst the outcomes have improved over the years, treatment can be long, emotionally and physically debilitating and have a massive financial impact.
“A breast cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming,” explained Sally Dare, Breast Cancer Care WA Services Manager.
“There is a complex network of health professionals involved, a lot of information to absorb, decisions to make, treatments and it has a significant impact on the whole family. This can present challenges for everyone but there are unique cultural, logistical and financial challenges for First Nations and non-English speaking people with breast cancer in our community.
“Our nurses and counsellors understand these challenges, and often these clients need additional support to navigate the healthcare system to get the necessary treatment they require. We are constantly working with and learning from our clients from remote Indigenous communities or multicultural backgrounds on how best to support them,” said Sally.
Breast Cancer Care WA is all about filling the gap in care for people facing breast cancer. Many people would not be able to access the services provided if they had to pay for them. The reason Breast Cancer Care WA can provide this support free of charge is due to the generosity of the West Australian community. Breast Cancer Care WA receives no ongoing government funding. They are solely reliant on our supporters, large and small.
“Our services are only available thanks to the generosity and passion of our WA Community,” said Breast Cancer Care WA CEO, Zoe McAlpine.
“From our partners including McGrath Foundation, Steel Blue, Perth Wildcats and Komatsu, through to our loyal supporters who have jumped out of planes, held lunches and morning teas and make monthly donations – every dollar counts. Tomorrow’s nursing, counselling and financial assistance for our clients is only possible thanks to today’s donations – and we couldn’t be more grateful.
“Twenty two years ago we started as a volunteer-run organisation, and today our team of 25 staff continue to be backed by over 200 volunteers. Our supporters and our volunteers are the lifeblood of the organisation, and we couldn’t exist without them. “
If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer and would like the support of Breast Cancer Care WA, just call 9324 3703 or check out the website for more information.
If you would like to offer your support to ensure that ALL West Australians facing breast cancer have access to the support they need, click here.