Tips from a Seasoned DJ

Going Dry in July doesn’t get easier third time round but experience has helped Darren Box, General Manager at the Department of Human Services, improve his fund raising game.

Last year Darren raised $1,000 for adult cancer; this year he has more than doubled that, thanks to support from his friends, family and colleagues.

So what did he do differently?

Besides hitting up his network for donations, Darren enlisted the help of his fellow colleagues who helped him organise a hugely successful bake sale, raising over $600. Not to mention casual Fridays for a gold coin donation and a sausage sizzle to wrap up the end of the dry season.

‘I am very grateful for all the support. Fund raising is a lot of work, it takes a lot of time and effort. We started fund raising from mid-July and the team have put in an amazing effort to help me. I never knew there were so many good bakers working with me! Having help and a game plan this year has really made a difference. Although we raised a fair amount at the bake sale, we hope to raise even more at the sausage sizzle. Every donation counts.’  

Although his birthday falls in July, staying committed to the cause is easy for a number of reasons— Darren has had leukaemia in his family and lost a close friend to cancer.

‘It hasn’t been the easiest journey,’ says Darren ‘alcohol is a big part of life for a lot of people. It’s everywhere and until you have to say no, you don’t realise how prevalent it is. Giving up a drink on my birthday is nothing compared to what adult cancer patients go through.’

As the number one fund raiser in the A.C.T. and a frequent dryer, Darren has plans to do even better next year.

‘There is no greater feeling than helping others. Knowing that I was able to raise money to help adult cancer patients is a reward in itself, getting ranked first in the A.C.T. is a bonus. Maybe if we start fund raising earlier next year, we can get even better results. Personally, I believe that every contribution made, no matter how large or small, goes towards charities helping Australians most in need. Even if you aren’t able to raise much, don’t give up and don’t let it stop you from trying because that dollar you raise could make a difference’

Stuart’s very special Dry July tribute

At the halfway point in Dry July Stuart Poole is the highest fundraiser in the ACT and has chosen to support The Canberra Hospital. Here, Stuart has generously offered to share his story of why Dry July is a cause close to his heart.

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This time last year my brother and I attempted Dry July; we did our best, but at times we received a few golden tickets, and sometimes we just needed a naughty drink.

Why naughty? Well at this time last year our beautiful Mum was fading away. Mum had pancreatic cancer. Around this time last year our worst fears were confirmed, the spots on her liver were cancer too.

It was very stressful to watch our beautiful Mother on life support, it was hard to talk with doctors about how much longer it should continue. Sleep was infrequent, with a couple of 1am phone calls to “get in now”. We were doing our best, but given the circumstances, we snuck a few drinks in. None of our close friends that had sponsored us seemed to mind given the circumstances. Family were coming to say their goodbyes, and every time I left the hospital at night, you knew each goodbye could be the last.

My brother and I both started working part time, so we could have an extra day with Mum each in the week. On Friday August 29th when I went to see her, Mum was weak; she asked me to let her rest, so I went home at lunch and came back in the afternoon. Her friend Coleen came to visit from Wagga (Mum was in Canberra Hospice) and looked at Mum and fled the room and the hospice in tears. She couldn’t believe what she saw. Mum was down to less than 40 kilos, her face was grey and wrinkly. I guess because I had watched the transition I was used to how Mum looked these days.

At 5pm my brother rang from the hospice, he said Mum was very unwell and he was worried, he thought we better get in. My partner drove me in and on the way in the hospice staff handed us a card, with instructions on what was about to happen. It told us what to do when someone dies. I asked “is this it?” They said “yes, your Mother is about to leave us.” I was guttered, nothing can prepare you for this.

My brother and I held a hand each all night, as gradually Mum’s breathing slowed down, and became more and more “rattily”. I asked my Aunty, who was an ex nurse, “is that the death rattles?” “Yes”, she said, without elaborating. At 2 minutes past midnight Mum slowed right down and stopped. Dad proclaimed, “I think she’s gone”. My Aunty checked and said, “I’ll get the nurses.”

That was it, the beautiful lady that had raised us, taught us right from wrong, nursed us when we were sick, made play-dough for us on rainy days and all the other things a good Mother should do was gone forever. And that was that. I will never get over losing Mum. She was the best Mum you could hope for.

We can never change the horrible year that was 2014, nor can we bring Mum back. But we can help to raise money so other people can have a chance, so other families can be comfortable when they visit their loved ones in the ward.

I wish I had studied harder at school, so I could be a doctor, and be a part of the solution. Raising funds for Dry July is probably the best I can do. I feel good without alcohol. I’m hoping to lose a few kilos as well along the way. Maybe I will stay dry for a while after too?

It’s nice to be able to give back. The staff at the hospital and hospice were so nice to us.

To donate to Stuart visit: https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/stuartpoole.

THRF’s Under Our Roof project patient story

Under Our Roof will offer purpose-built accommodation to cancer patients and their families who have to travel from regional SA to treatment in Adelaide. The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF) has allocated Dry July funds to this project for the past few years and anticipates the units near The Queen Elizabeth Hospital will open in 2015. Here, Amanda Morris has kindly offered her story to tell how Under Our Roof will make a difference to people like her.

Leaving Her Children to Treat Cancer – Amanda’s Story

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For a mother of two young children living in country South Australia and being treated for stage 2 breast cancer, Amanda Morris believes that The Hospital Research Foundation’s Under Our Roof project would mean the world to people like her.

Diagnosed towards the end of 2014, Amanda, who lives in Kadina with a five-year old and a one-year old, had surgery in February this year and is currently undergoing radiotherapy treatment for her fortunately curable breast cancer.

“You just don’t think it will happen to you and I’m very lucky that I noticed the lump when I did,” she said.

“There were actually two lumps and one was a reasonable size that had tentacles going through the breast and into the lymph nodes. It was quite shocking.

“As soon as they confirmed it was cancer they did tests for two weeks and I was back and forth to Adelaide sometimes nearly three times a week – it was exhausting.”

To Amanda, finding out if her breast cancer was treatable or not was what made all the difference.

“While the diagnosis was a huge shock, all I could think of was that I couldn’t die…I have two kids,” she said.

“Once I had my peace that I was going to live, I just got on with it.”

Amanda had chemotherapy treatment in Adelaide before her surgery and her mum would drive her while her husband would stay at home and look after the kids.

“While the treatment itself was two-three hours, when you include the travel it really is a whole day – we would leave early but arrive home after dark.

“Chemo was awful and I experienced pretty much all of the possible side effects, but fortunately it worked because when they did the surgery the cancer had shrunk so much they couldn’t even find it,” she said.

During all of this, Amanda made sure that her five-year-old son Ethan would cope with the changes she was going through.

“I have a really lovely relationship with Ethan and explained to him that I would lose my hair but we made it light and funny and agreed that he could draw Captain America on my head,” Amanda said.

“We talked about the cancer being the baddies in my body and the treatment I was receiving was the goodies fighting off the baddies.

“When I would leave to Adelaide he would always say ‘Mum, don’t forget to tell the doctor to give the goodies lots of guns, swords, bullets and shields to keep the baddies away.’”

For Amanda, having an Under Our Roof home to stay in during her treatment with her family would change the experience for her completely.

“Being away from my kids is heartbreaking. Thank you to each person who supports Under Our Roof – I can’t wait to see these two homes open up to provide a sanctuary for people like me.”

You can support the vital Under Our Roof project by choosing The Hospital Research Foundation as your Dry July Beneficiary.

https://au.dryjuly.com/our-community/beneficiaries/who-we-help/south-australia/the-hospital-research-foundation/

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Patient Ambassador: Simone

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Simone Georgiou has kindly stepped forward to support Chris O’Brien Lifehouse as a patient ambassador. Here Simone shares her story:

I was married in November 2013.

Nine months later, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Just over a year after walking down the aisle I have become the first patient to have major surgery at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the first patient in the new Intensive Care Unit.

Bowel cancer, I have since found, is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia. If you get it early enough, it’s so much more curable. I think back, and if only I’d known the danger and the signs.

In my case, the signs were there. I first noticed warning signals during my honeymoon in Mexico – but they were disguised because I had managed to pick up a bowel parasite that was later treated successfully with antibiotics when we got home.

Then I fell pregnant, and with pregnancy you have even more changes with your bowel. But after I miscarried the problems continued. My GP got me to have a check-up and, even knowing my family history, everyone was saying: ‘Don’t worry, it’ll just be Crohn’s Disease or gastro or ulcers’.

When the diagnosis came, even my specialist was surprised, given my age at 39.

Immediately, my husband and I began a round of IVF, and now have three embryos frozen. We are waiting for the right time to be carried by a surrogate who has selflessly offered. Obviously I now can’t carry a child.  And it was overwhelming to have this offer. It’s just so… so big.

So I am now through the first round of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and the removal of my entire large bowel and a full hysterectomy to prevent any recurrence of the cancer.

Lying in my bed recuperating from surgery, I’ve had plenty of time to think. I think how, if I hadn’t lost my baby, I would now be dead. Sometimes good things can come from really bad things.

Going through this so young changes your outlook and perspective on life

I often hear people complain about their bad day at work or that they are unable to lose some extra kilos, and it’s sad that they don’t know how lucky they are, they have this amazing thing called ‘health’. I also used to take that for granted, but never again. It’s the little things at the moment that make a big difference.

So I’m looking at what I can do with my life that’s positive and the way my story might help others.

I want to urge younger people to have a check-up if they have a history of cancer in their family.

My grandfather and his siblings died from bowel cancer. My father would have been a carrier of Lynch Syndrome, which predisposes carriers to bowel cancer, but he died of melanoma. I always knew I would get cancer because my family has cancer on both sides, but not so young. I thought I would be older.

I want to do something to support other younger people who get cancer. Under 50, it’s not something you expect. If there’s a way I can make it a little bit easier, to make other people feel they’re not the only one out there, I want to do something, even if it’s just saving one person from this.