Queensland Cancer Wellness Initiative gives patient strength
For 47-year-old Jason, he credits the medical team at the Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital and programs offered through the Queensland Cancer Wellness Initiative (QCWI) for helping him stay the course through his ongoing battle with bladder cancer.
After noticing an increased need to urinate, and on one occasion blood in his urine, the Brisbane resident sought medical advice and was diagnosed with bladder cancer in the spring of 2017.
What followed has been a physical and emotional roller-coaster for almost three years with what is the 12th most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.
Jason has had a variety of treatments in an attempt to eradicate the disease, including chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy and radiation. Without these interventions, Jason doubts he would be alive today to tell his story.
He currently receives a cocktail of four different chemotherapies at the PA Hospital every three weeks.
"A cancer diagnosis changes everything,you instantly lose control and certainty," Jason said.
"There's so much to take in and process, so anything that can be done to support someone in this situation is priceless. Cancer doesn't just affect one person, it also impacts their family and friends."
For Jason, his first day of treatment in September 2017 was a scary experience.
"The first day I was scheduled to receive chemo, it took multiple attempts to get the needle in my vein. I was scared, in pain and felt like running away!
"The patient next to me was like an angel, reassuring me and giving me the boost I needed to get through my first treatment day," he recalls.
"The people I met, both hospital staff and other patients, have made a huge difference. If I see someone new, I try to be encouraging and reassuring, because I know how gut-wrenchingly scary it can be."
PA Hospital patient and Queensland Cancer Wellness Initiative advocate, Jason
Funded by the PA Research Foundation (using funds raised through last year's Dry July fundraising campaign), Jason is one of many cancer patients who have benefitted from the QCWI, which is a range of services in Queensland where people with cancer are nurtured and empowered to access evidence-based support at a time and place that works for individual needs, hosted at the PA Hospital.
"I recall watching ABC's Catalyst program called 'Exercise and Cancer'... This inspired me to ask at the PA Hospital if they had any exercise programs for cancer patients.
"I was delighted to join the exercise program and it has been excellent. It helped increase my strength, confidence and form some wonderful new friendships with other cancer patients," Jason said.
"I have also attended one of the 'Look Good Feel Better' workshops and found it helpful. I look forward to participating in other care and wellness programs available through the Queensland Cancer Wellness Initiative."
Although his journey with bladder cancer continues, Jason remains positive knowing that many types of cancer have better outcomes today than they did five or ten years ago and that medical research and clinical trials continue to advance treatment options.
When asked what advice he would give to someone else receiving a cancer diagnosis, Jason responded:
"In addition to following your oncologist's treatment plan, I suggest making the healthiest lifestyle choices you can, especially involving diet, exercise and sleep."
"Life isn't how I expected, but I am grateful for each new day and doing what I can to add some joy in the world. For me, that involves doing random acts of kindness. For you, whatever lights you up – do more of that!"
The support offered through the PA Hospital and the QCWI has been invaluable to Jason and he is hopeful that Dry July will result in more donations to be used towards patient support to help others like him.
To make a donation to PA Research Foundation's Dry July 2020 campaign head to dryjuly.com/PARF