Cancer Champs

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This month we headed down to meet the team at Cancer Council Singleton and find out about the amazing things these guys do for our Upper Hunter communities.

Glen Parsons, Community Programs Coordinator, Clint Ekert, Community Relations Coordinator and their team of hardworking and selfless volunteers spend their days working hard to improve the lives of cancer sufferers and their families in the Upper Hunter.

When Glen started with the Cancer Council in March 2011 one of his first missions was to find a home in the Upper Hunter for the Cancer Council.

“I’d been driving from Broadmeadow every day covering areas from Maitland to Dungog to Merriwa to the Murrurundi Range. 20,000kms in 6 months was a lot of kms on the old Camry. We knew it was time to set up a permanent presence in the Upper Hunter,” Glen told us.

“We researched all the options and decided Singleton was the best fit. It made sense as it was right in the middle of where we needed to be and gave the best possible coverage. On February 7, 2013 we had our official opening of our Singleton office. Young local cancer survivor Tia Morgan opened the office for us because we thought that best represented what we were about. Community.”

The minute you step through the doors of the office you will be greeted with a smile and a cuppa from people who understand what you are going through and are there to help in any way they can.

“We’re a one stop shop,” says Glen. “If we can’t help you then we know who can. One of our main challenges is that not enough people know about all the services we offer and that’s something that we want to change.”

Services include a legal and financial assistance program where financial counsellors will help a person free of change with their finances and pro bono solicitors who will help create wills or access superannuation for those with a terminal diagnosis.

“We have lots of other things we can help with too such as financial assistance. We know there is a cost to cancer and people struggle and we can help to offset that,” Glen says.

“All of these things can be a great comfort for families that are dealing with a devastating situation. We even have counsellors that can help throughout the process. But above all, you will find information and support,” he adds.

But these guys aren’t just sitting in the Singleton office. They are always out and about servicing all the little communities that make up the Upper Hunter. 

“Cancer does not discriminate and so we have to get out and educate people wherever they are. If they’re on a farm, in a mine, or working in the local shop, we’ll be there,” says Glen.

These days Clint heads up the fundraising side of things, while Glen works on creating and maintaining their programs. 

“Clint inspires people to fundraise and then I get hold of that money and spit it back into the local community. Support, prevention, screening and advocacy are the four things we are focused on,” Glen says passionately.

One of the programs that Glen is most proud of is their Transport to Treatment program and after hearing about it you’ll understand why. For people diagnosed with cancer in the Upper Hunter, just getting to treatment can be extremely difficult and costly. For example, when you’ve got to get from Merriwa to Newcastle for a series of chemotherapy treatments, there’s no public transport and you’re looking at almost a 400km round trip in a car. 

Glen tells the story of what set the program in motion. “One day I had a man phone up and ask me for advice. His wife had cancer and they only had enough money to get her to treatment or to buy food for the week. When I heard their story I knew this was not good enough and I made it my mission to get free transport for everyone. Three months later it was done and no one has paid since. It might not sound like much but if the least I can do is get a person safely from their house to life saving treatment, well that’s a good start.”

By offering the transport to treatment service, it’s not just a financial burden that’s lifted from the person. There’re also emotional and physical burdens, such as trying to transport yourself, having family members take time off work, or having to make desperate decisions like the couple in the story.

Another important program Glen works on is in prevention. He regularly visits workplaces to hold preventative cancer talks. Whether your organisation has 2 people or 200, he’ll be there to talk about their services and the vital importance of things like screening. Glen’s major focus for the next 18 months is around bowel, breast and cervical screening. 

“Recent statistics show that if a person uses the free bowel cancer kit from the government and they are diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer there is a 99% chance that they’ll be cured and come out the other side. For us to push that information is extremely important,” Glen says.

Then there’s the fundraising side of things which Clint heads up. “All the townships throughout the Upper Hunter are extremely generous,” Clint says. “We are not government funded and it’s the community support that allows us to operate.”

Clint explains how fundraising works best when the community gets behind an event. Relay for Life is a great example of that and it’s been a resounding success over the years. Recently he’s been hard at work bringing us ‘The Stars of the Hunter’. This exciting event on June 29 has received incredible community support and no doubt will be a fixture on the Upper Hunter calendar in years to come.

Last but not least Glen talks about advocacy. “I just cannot emphasis enough how important the people in this community are to what we do,” says Glen. “Without volunteers we could not operate. Debbie Rae is a great example of that. Like all our volunteers, Deb is passionate and loves helping. She and all the other volunteers are the real heroes.”

Cancer Council Information Support Line – 13 11 20
69 John Street, Singleton
02 6572 5400
Preventative Cancer Talks in the Workplace – 0428 101 252  

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