Having survived bowel cancer, Luke Cridland views Dry July as his way of giving back to those who cared for him.
A non-drinker, Luke has been cancer-free for two years and is putting sugar and fast food on the banned list as much as possible, as he seeks to do his bit for patients being treated by the cancer services unit at the PA Hospital (PAH) while re-establishing some healthy habits of his own.
Luke said going without his sugar kick will be a struggle but having undertaken Dry July before he will be able to heed his own advice to help him push through the full 31 days.
"The biggest challenge for anyone participating in Dry July is simply changing those deep-rooted habits, and it can be quite confronting to discover just how much you lean on little guilty pleasures in life," he said.
"My advice is to make a big deal out of it. The more you talk about it the more accountable you become for your decisions, and the more rewarding the experience is when you meet all the challenges you set for yourself.
"I found the social aspect of Dry July to be a huge benefit and a key factor in achieving my healthy eating goals. Everyone in my life knew that I was participating and was actively barracking for my success."
Just 32 when diagnosed, Luke (who works for PA Research Foundation which raises funds for medical research and patient support initiatives at the PAH) said he was shocked at first to learn he had a form of cancer normally diagnosed in older men, but to beat the disease, he knew he would have to put his faith in the health professionals tasked with his treatment.
"There were so many scans, probes, and appointments that it was difficult to keep up with what was happening (and still is even 2 years later), but I turned up where I was told to turn up and did what I was told to do and at the end of it all, I'm cancer-free," Luke said.
"At no point did I feel anything but supported by the doctors, nurses, and support staff. Even on the days I could tell the oncology ward was short-staffed or busier than usual, I never got the sense that patient care wasn't priority number one."
Luke said the best aspect of Dry July outside of raising funds that help people just like him, is establishing positive changes for his health and wellbeing, knowing it's not easy but it's well worth it come August.
"My past participation in Dry July has been an opportunity to set a concrete start and finish date around changing some of my more challenging vices: consuming way too much sugar and caffeine, and buying way too much fast food instead of cooking for myself, or at least choosing the healthiest option off the menu at a café," he said.
"Making even small changes to your habits, diet, and lifestyle is a lot more difficult than people give credit for. When you're trying to do something like take a break from booze or fast food it doesn't take much to justify 'taking a break from your break' and falling off the wagon.
Working at the PAH, he regularly gets to see the dedication of the Cancer Services Unit staff and knows every dollar raised will go a long way to helping people diagnosed with cancer to have a more comfortable treatment journey.
"I've seen first-hand the dedication of the cancer patient support team at the PA, and from experience, I can stress the importance of a positive, supported, and comfortable time during treatment and beyond," he said.
"Living with cancer is more than a diagnosis – it's multiple trips to the hospital every month, it's time in a waiting room, it's sitting in a chair receiving chemotherapy for hours on end, it's the impact of the treatment on your ability to do what you want when you want. The care and support you receive outside of the treatment itself is priceless.
"Dry July is important because it's one of the few opportunities in the year to focus on the wellness of cancer patients outside of direct treatment for their illness.
"The development of treatment options for cancer patients will always be a critical and deserving priority in the medical health space, having a fundraising initiative that focuses exclusively on patient care means that beneficiary hospitals and wellness centres don't have to compete their priorities and can give cancer patient wellness the attention it deserves."
You can donate to help Luke kick the sugar and fast food and help cancer patients at the PA Hospital through July via www.dryjuly.com/users/luke-cridland-2.