The Why in my Dry July

Jackson Ryan; on trying to give up as much as his mother has and raising money for adults living with cancer.

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Did you ever get to make a wish as you cut your birthday cake? You know how, as long as you didn’t touch the bottom of the plate (and you were old enough to be loosed upon a large knife), you were provided with a single wish for whatever your heart desired? The catch, of course, is that you can’t tell anybody what you wish for because that is breaking the single rule of wish-making and whatever force of nature is the Granter Of All Wishes doesn’t take kindly to that. Today though, I want to tell you the one thing I’ve wished for since as long as I can remember.

“I wish me and my family could be dieproof”

I started wishing for that not long after my aunt, who had battled cancer for ten years, passed away. I was 9. I think it was the first time I really experienced loss. I didn’t have the word ‘immortal’ in my vocabulary yet. I figured that the Granter Of All Wishes would understand ‘dieproof’.

I can’t strongly recall if 9 year old me had any idea of what was happening. Sure, I was sad, I was crying a lot, but so was my mum and I think I was crying for her and my little brother and the uncertainty of the whole thing. I mean, what happened next? What even was it that caused my aunt to die? I had no idea. I wasn’t brought up to believe that my aunt was going to That Better Place Adults Talk About. It was a thing that happened that I understood enough to know we wouldn’t be seeing my aunt anymore. That was a sad thought.

I didn’t understand “cancer”, because kids don’t understand cancer. I confused it with the star sign, with a crab and a constellation, and never really bothered asking what it was. For whatever reason (predominantly an interesting and exciting year 11 biology teacher), I got interested in science and began to understand cancer. It wasn’t long after that I entered university, studying medical science, that I actually fully understood what cancer was — what cancer is. Then I confronted it again during university, when my closest friend lost his father to it.

Toward the end of my degree I actually appreciated the lengths that cancerous cells go to avoid the immune system. I understood how DNA becomes damaged in the process of unzipping and rezipping and how specific genes switch off or stop working so that cancer cells don’t die naturally, like cells are wont to do. I began to understand that there are many forms of cancer, and many reasons that it arises. I began to learn that my mother’s side of the family likely has a genetic mutation, as yet unknown to us, that raises the incidence of breast cancer — and that this mutation wasn’t one of the few that science has already discovered a lot about. I learnt that this is what my aunt fought against for many years and that potentially, my mum might have to as well.

Importantly, I learnt that people never give up and I learnt how much people have to give up for cancer.

Several years ago, my mother opted to have preventative surgery in which both her breasts would be removed.

Suddenly, my prepubescent dreams of immortality for my family and myself seemed childish. I’ve never wanted to give those wishes up, not even now, some fifteen years later whenever I have a chance to cut the cake. But, then my own mum has given up parts of her flesh. Not just for her health, but for me — for her family — my brother, her husband, my niece. My mum confronted her mortality and hammered home the point that there is no ‘dieproof’. There is no immortal. She sacrificed and suffered through pain and surgical complications for me — to stop that shadow, that lurking, insidious ghost, Cancer.

For that reason, for the entire month of July I am giving up drinking alcohol as part of the Dry July initiative.

Dry July raises funds for adults living with cancer and specifically, it does it for several beneficiaries in my own state. One of them, The Hospital Research Foundation, raises funds for world class health and medical research, itself an issue very close to my heart. Even better, it does it for the very hospital in which my mum underwent surgery.

Will it be easy? I don’t know. I’ve got football games, birthday parties and quiet winter nights in where I’d probably love a heart-warming glass of wine to get past. I also really love sailing with my good mate, The Captain. Easy? I am certain it will be a whole lot easier than what those with cancer, or those who know someone with cancer, go through. It’s a walk in the park compared to that. It shouldn’t be hard to go rum-free for a month.

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That childhood wish still sits at the back of my mind. It’s not good enough for me to cut a cake and wish for immortality anymore. I want to make a difference in one of the few ways I know how — by putting money into research into better cancer treatment, better patient care and better experiences for those that have to contend with that great beast that cancer is. So, for every donor that puts money toward my campaign, I am going to put 0.50c into the campaign myself up to a maximum of $100.

Maybe you’ll feel the same! Maybe you’ll want to donate to keep my sobriety intact for a month. Maybe you’ll want to know how easily I get drunk on August 1st? Or maybe you know exactly how I feel when that insidious C word creeps into conversation. Maybe you want to make a difference too.

If so, please donate to my Dry July campaign. Every dollar counts and the more donors there are, the more I will throw in myself!

https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/jacksonryan

Original story on Jackson’s blog. Click here to view.

Why I signed up for Dry July

By Toni O’Sullivan

When I first heard of Dry July in 2011, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I found the prospect daunting. I guess I was typical of a lot of Aussies, in that I’d slipped into a pattern of regular drinking, which I didn’t consider a problem. Yet the thought of stopping was a challenge.


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I had a pretty stressful and full-on job and after a long day at work I enjoyed having two or three glasses of wine to wind down and relax.

However, I’d reached a point where I wasn’t happy with the way I looked – I’d gained more weight than I realised and I knew that it was time to change things.    I saw Dry July as the opportunity to make some healthy lifestyle changes so I signed up! That was in 2011 and I’ve taken part each year since.

That first year, I immediately noticed that I felt better for being booze-free. I had more energy, I found it easier to get into doing some light exercise and also made better food choices. It’s so easy when you’re in the pub to start eating hot chips and burgers but doing Dry July, I stopped all that.

As a result, I dropped 5kg really quickly and easily. Since then I’ve lost about 16kg and I feel like a different person – I’m healthier and have managed to maintain some of those changes I made during my first Dry July.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a glass of wine during the rest of the year but now I look forward to July coming around. I know it’s a great opportunity to make those healthy changes, have a bit of a detox and a mid-year health check.

So I’ve signed up again this year and I’ve got my partner on the wagon with me so we’re supporting each other, which makes it much easier.

Last July we lost our friend Carl. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2013 and was gone so quickly. I always get so sad when I think of Carl not being with us any more, which is why I will always pledge my support for such a cause, and raise awareness however I can.

We’re raising funds for the Mater Foundation in Brisbane and so far this year have raised over $300. In previous years I’ve got more than $500 so I’m hoping to beat that this year. Proceeds from Dry July support adults living with cancer and help fund projects such as complementary therapy programs (including art, massage, and music therapies), fit-out and furnishings at dedicated patient accommodation facilities, new treatment chairs and electric lift beds and refurbishment of hospital cancer ward areas.

Knowing I’m raising funds for such a fantastic cause gives me the added motivation I need when things get tricky a couple of weeks into the challenge. A couple of weeks in it always feels like there’s still a long time to go but by then I’m also noticing the benefits so that spurs me on too.

You can donate to Toni’s Dry July here: https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/tonigloria

Shout Dry July from the rooftops!

Dry July ambassadors shout from the rooftops…literally!

Now that Wollongong Hospital’s $106 million redevelopment has reached its highest point, a group of dedicated ambassadors will soar to the top of building and shout their message from the rooftops ….all in the name of charity.

The volunteers are launching Wollongong Hospital’s 2014 Dry July campaign, which raises funds for the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre.
Dry July is simple; don’t drink alcohol for the month and get people to sponsor your efforts.

The Hospital’s General Manager, registered participant and ambassador, Nicole Sheppard, said it’s a fun way to challenge yourself while raising vital funds for adult cancer services.

“It’s the fourth time we’ve been chosen as a beneficiary of Dry July, every year it promotes a healthy rivalry amongst teams, family and friends. We hope this year will be our most successful, with the proceeds helping the Cancer Care Centre to further enhance patient services and make the cancer journey a little less daunting,” she said.

Former Miss World Australia, Katie Richardson has also taken up the challenge. The Wollongong Hospital Research Assistant is more than happy to go dry for the month.

“I studied nutrition so I’m very passionate about health and wellbeing. Dry July is not only an opportunity to raise money for a great cause; it also encourages everyone to think about their own lifestyle and alcohol consumption. I’m looking forward to my first Dry July” Katie said.

This year, funds raised during July will go toward cancer service enhancements including making patient treatment spaces more comfortable and enabling free WiFi for patients during treatment.

Director of Cancer Services and Dry July participant, Anthony Arnold, said previous campaigns have raised more than $270,000 which has seen significant enhancements to the care and comfort of patients receiving cancer treatment, and their families.

The Story of My Angel by Jaemi Maher

Jaemi Maher is raising money for The Canberra Hospital in memory of her Mumma Bear, Debbie Maher. You can donate to Team Debsta here: https://au.dryjuly.com/team/teamdebsta

This is Jaemi’s story:

I still remember the day my Mum came home from a “normal” Doctor’s appointment. I raced to the door to tell her about my first day of my new job - she burst into tears holding her face. She told me that they found a lump on her lung and it could be Cancer.

This all happened in March 2012.

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Life was perfect. My Mum is my best friend. I don’t have any siblings so was very spoilt with her unconditional love. My Dad doesn’t live with me. It was just her and I in our own world.

The Cancer was found in her lung - she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. She hated that. She hated that people thought that smoking caused her to be sick. We then quickly found out the Cancer was everywhere - spine, liver, elbow, you name it, it was there.

I remember her telling me that worst case scenario she had 6-12 months left. I cried endlessly. She said “I know this is hard and it’s only going to get tougher - but if I go, you will still have Honey and Evie” (our dogs) Somehow she always brought light on any dark situation.

She started her Chemotherapy treatments. I found it so hard to concentrate at work. I would sit there and stare out of the window just thinking about “what if..” which brought me to tears.

I attended one of her Chemo Treatments one day. My Mum put on this amazing brave face. I remember looking at her in that big chair, needle in her hand and arm and thinking “WOW, we’re going to be fine - she will fight this Cancer off with no troubles..”

I continued living my life, that’s how she wanted me to be. She never wanted me to worry or get upset with her. But then the bad news started rolling in.. I would get a phone call from her whilst out shopping or doing my normal weekend/afternoon activities. I’d answer the phone and she would just cry. I would race home not knowing if I wanted to know the news or not - I just knew it would be bad.

The Cancer was then found in her brain. I hated that day.

By then, she was barely at work anymore. People started to ask questions, but she really didn’t want anyone to know. But then she started to lose her hair. I remember her saying “Well, everyone is going to know now, so may as well make the most of it!” She was so brave. Braver then I could ever be. She got her head shaved and began to wear turbans. To be honest, she looked so cute and adorable with these on.

She began to lose her mobility about December 2012. She couldn’t drive, she could barely walk to the car for treatments and she could barely make it to the toilet. I am blessed to have my Nanny and Pa to help my Mum throughout her entire illness. Without them, I think I would have hurt a lot more. I remember hearing her fall over one morning. I sprinted to down to her and we just laid there and cried. We never talked about “Death” or what would happen if she “died”. Instead, we spoke about silly things, nice things and dreams.

On Tuesday the 26th of February, I woke up to do my normal morning routine - give her the concoction of drugs, followed by some kind of liquid breakfast like an icy pole, help her to the toilet and then sit with her whilst she waits for the pain relief to kick in. When I got to her room, she wasn’t in her bed. Instead, she was lying on the floor. She had attempted to go to the toilet (which was a commode next to her bed) by herself. I was so mad at her. She told me she had only been on the floor for 10 minutes but I knew she wasn’t telling the truth. I went to work feeling so angry, hurt, upset, and worried. I didn’t know what to do. I ended up calling her Doctor and was able to see him that day. He came over for a house call that night and said to Mum “In the short term, you can stay here. But for now you need to choose between the Hospital or the Hospice..” Mum replied “Here” as she was sitting up in bed. She was so stubborn - but I love that about her.

The next day, Mum went unconscious at 11:30am. She woke up though was not herself. She knew what was happening. She was dying. She told me “I’m scared because I know where I have to go…” It was the most emotional 24 hours of my entire life. She peacefully passed away, in her own bed, with her loving family around her on the morning of Thursday the 28th of February. She was THAT close to making it to 12 months since diagnosis.

I am so proud of her. She fought hard and in the end she got what she wanted - which is something I will continually strive towards for the rest of my life.

I love you every day, Mumma Bear.

Go Dry for cancer patients at Flinders

The Flinders Medical Centre Foundation is calling on South Australians to go booze-free this July to help raise funds to support patients battling cancer at Flinders.

This is the first time that Flinders has been chosen as a beneficiary of Dry July – a national fundraising campaign which has raised over $15 million since 2009 and asks people to give up alcohol for the month of July in support of adults living with cancer.

Flinders University SA Brain Bank Coordinator Robyn Flook knows first-hand what this funding means for patients after battling breast cancer in 2012.

Robyn runs the SA Brain Bank which facilitates the study of brain tissues collected from donors. Scientists from around Australia can access this tissue to further their research into neurological diseases.

This year she is giving back to the FMC Foundation by becoming an ambassador for Dry July, encouraging others to register to help make a difference for patients going through treatment at Flinders.

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“Being diagnosed with cancer is daunting, and the treatment can be distressing, but Dry July is helping to make the journey a little less traumatic by raising vital funds to support cancer care services.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2012. What followed was a whirlwind of tests. There were bone scans, blood tests (lots of blood tests) and xrays. Next there was treatment: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  In amongst all this activity, there were emotions to deal with - for me and for my family and friends.

“My journey was made easier because I could have most treatments done at Flinders, close to my home. I had chemotherapy at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer. I had toured the centre when it opened, never knowing I would one day be a patient. My oncology appointments were one floor up from the Infusion Suite. It was a warm, comforting and relaxed environment, which was important during such a difficult time. My son would sit with me during my treatments – every three weeks for a year. Some sessions lasted for four or five hours. I appreciated the calm environment, comfortable treatment chairs, and access to the internet, which all meant my time spent in the cancer centre was not so bad.

“The Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, with the support of the FMC Foundation, provided me with the support I needed -  both medical and emotional - as well as providing those ‘little extras’ that aren’t covered by a stressed health budget, but are so very important to patient well-being. There was advice on keeping well during treatment, support to get a wig before my hair fell out, and a supply of soft and colourful beanies for when the wig was too uncomfortable. I was surprised just how cold a bald head gets in winter!

“I finished all treatments last September; what a happy day that was. I continue to enjoy every moment of life – and I hope and expect to enjoy many more years as a cancer survivor.

“Thank you Dry July, and all those who support this fun but important campaign that is helping make cancer treatment a little easier to endure.”

To sign up for Flinders please visit www.dryjuly.com and choose Flinders as your beneficiary.

 

For anyone who doesn’t drink, you can choose to give up something else for the month of July – it could be coffee, chocolate, sugar, social media – whatever your vice is!

If you can’t participate this year, you can also make a donation to support Robyn or Team Flinders to support vital cancer services at Flinders.

The FMC Foundation hopes to raise much-need funds to grow cancer care programs at Flinders, such as oncology massage, a stress management program, ward equipment and survivorship services.