Cancer support networks invaluable

ACCORDING to Olympian and cancer survivor, Raelene Boyle AM MBE, cancer was something that stays with you the rest of your life.

Despite having been cancer free for 17 years, Ms Boyle said she had to remain diligent to ensure the cancer didn’t return.

Ms Boyle told her personal story to an audience of 200 women touched by cancer, and their families, at Breast Cancer Network Australia’s Gippsland forum, in Sale on Wednesday.

Ms Boyle said Sale held special significance for her, as her parents met at the air force base during the war.

“It’s lovely to be back in this area that really has a significance to my family,” she said.

Ms Boyle said the response at the forum was exceptional with people coming from all over the region to attend.

“I’m sure the women will take away some very useful information,” she said, praising the presentation of oncologist Yoland Antill.

Dr Antill spoke on the latest advances in breast cancer treatment and care.

Third speaker, psycho-social expert Jay Renalson spoke on the emotional impact of breast cancer, and participated in a panel discussion, with BCNA community liaison Marlene Parsons and Janet Milne, on the topic of supporting women during and beyond breast cancer.

One of the biggest innovations in this area, according to Ms Boyle, was the way BCNA had utilised modern technology to connect Australian women experiencing breast cancer, via the internet.

BCNA national program manager Julie Hassard said the technology allowed women, who might be feeling low, or have questions, to express themselves at 2am in the morning when their immediate support network was still asleep.

She said the service extended women’s access to support and helped them know they weren’t alone.

Ms Hassard said Gippsland, and Sale in particular, had one of the strongest community support networks in Australia.

She said groups like the Waratahs and the Blossoms were really good for women experiencing breast cancer, as it allowed them to form friendships with women, and families, in similar situations.

According to Ms Hassard, cancer doesn’t just affect the women, or men, experiencing it, it affects entire families, communities.

The BCNA forum in Sale was just one of 14 forums to be held across Australia.

Women wanting to connect to the BCNA network can do so via the website at www.bcna.org.au or by phoning 1800 500 258.