I found out about Can Assist in October 2017 through local advertising, when a meeting was called to restart the Wagga Wagga Branch after previously being closed down due to lack of interest and activity. I went along to the meeting as I had a family history with cancer and decided to join as a member as they were so focused on the local community.
I have quite the family history with cancer, so felt that this was where I could best give back, volunteering my time and effort.
In the mid 1800’s , my grandmother had a breast removed, but lived to 93 after the removal. Her daughter died from breast cancer in her 40’s as well as three of her granddaughters. Then her son (my father) died from bowel cancer at the age of 79, as did one of his brothers. My father had to travel from Wagga Wagga to Sydney at the time, to receive cancer treatment – this was approximately 26 years ago.
My mother also died from bowel cancer, 13 years ago at the age of 89. Luckily, the cancer care centre in Wagga Wagga was operational at the time and this saved my mother from travelling the long distances my father had to undertake. Just three years ago, my sister died of stomach cancer at the age of 67. So, my history with family cancer is quite extensive.
I myself had a malignant melanoma removed 12 years ago, and then my prostate removed in November of 2018. It was a setback when I found out that I needed surgery at the end of last year, but I kept thinking positively. After surgery, I needed six weeks of radiation treatment, which was administered five days a week. It was at this point that I needed to ask Can Assist for some financial help, to assist with the high cost of surgery and treatments to try and alleviate some of the many expenses.
I live on my own in Wagga Wagga and there is nowhere else to turn to for assistance. I’m still receiving a little help until I can get back on my feet. I am currently waiting for results of this latest surgery, but remain hopeful and have a loving family around me to offer emotional support.
The feeling of relief when Can Assist offered financial support was amazing. When I joined Can Assist as a member, I didn’t realise I would so quickly need assistance myself.
I saw the help they gave to our local people and simply wanted to be part of a great organisation in any way I could. I looked around and found I could help raise funds for the local Wagga Wagga branch by running raffles and organising BBQs. Now that I have been a recipient of the Can Assist program, I am even more thankful for the organisation and take pride in the fact that I am a part of the Wagga Wagga branch and its ongoing fundraising efforts.
As a friend of Can Assist I know that you are very familiar with the work we do, I wanted to share my story with you to highlight our ongoing need for assistance, which is even more important today than it was when Can Assist started 63 years ago.
Can Assist was well known to me as both my mum and dad received assistance from the Can Assist West Wyalong Branch during their time in need. Sadly, Mum passed away from pancreatic cancer 10 years ago. Fortunately, Dad got through prostate cancer. Not only were Can Assist great supporting both Mum and Dad in their time of need but my parents also used the great facility Lilier lodge which saved them travelling from West Wyalong every day and allowed them to be close to their hospital to receive treatment in Wagga Wagga.
My own personal cancer journey started when I was living in Temora seven years ago as I was driving past the blood bank and thought I’d donate some blood. To my dismay, the preliminary test found my iron levels were alarmingly low and they would not let me out of there unless I went straight to the doctor who immediately sent me for a colonoscopy. As soon as I woke-up, I was told I had bowel cancer. Numb is how I felt. My first question was, “okay what are we going to do about it?”
I was sent to surgeon based in Wagga Wagga who informed me he was going to remove most of my bowel. We also discovered I had a heredity cancer ‘Lynch Syndrome’ passed down from my mother’s family as mum was on a cancer register.
As I had to travel from to Wagga Wagga for treatment, the Can Assist Temora Branch offered a range of services to me, assisted me with fuel vouchers, and organised transport around town ensuring that I could get to my hospital appointments comfortably and with little stress.
I had to have eight weeks off work to complete my course of treatment and Can Assist Temora Branch were fantastic in supporting me during this time, keeping in constant contact to see if there was anything I needed and providing me with peace of mind during a very anxious period. As a father of three boys, I needed all the help I could get and the support I got form Can Assist was a great relief. I now have a colonoscopy every 12 months and am still in the clear thankfully.
I moved to Wagga Wagga six years ago. In August 2017, Bradley, the youngest of my three sons was diagnosed with bowel cancer, aged 20. The cancer was removed but after more scans it was discovered there was more cancer in the bowel plus his liver. He has just finished six months of chemotherapy. We are not sure where to from here, more scans will decide. He has also found out he has Lynch Syndrome, an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer.
In trying to find help for Bradley I discovered there was no Can Assist branch in Wagga Wagga. I couldn’t believe it so I decided to see what I could do about it. I sent an email to Can Assist enquiring about the lack of a branch in Wagga Wagga and I soon received a response.
Wheels were set in motion, and following a media onslaught, we called an inaugural meeting for the end of October. We organised guest speakers, the past Can Assist Board President, current Can Assist CEO and the president from the Gundagai branch. All we needed were people to turn up and they did so, about 50 in total and with an executive committee voted in we were set to go.
Wagga Wagga Can Assist now meets on the first Monday of the month at Lilier lodge, with a good turn up to meetings however more volunteers are always needed. The more hands the lighter the workload. We only expect people to do what they can and give as much time as they can afford. We have a fundraising committee and welfare committee. We are getting there, we are all new at this and Rome wasn’t built in a day. We are helping people with cancer and that’s why we are doing what we are.
I need to thank everybody that made this happen, pulled strings, gave time, loaned venues and provided advice. Fortunately, Can Assist has been there for me throughout my life, ensuring my parents, myself and now my son have assistance when they need it the most.
I am very happy to provide my time to such a worthy cause that ensures very dollar given locally is handed out to those who need it locally. Since it was established in 1955, more than 55 Can Assist rural and regional branches run entirely by over 3,000 volunteers across NSW proudly hand out financial assistance every day to people in their local community. I urge you to support today, no amount is too small. The financial assistance Can Assist provides is immeasurable and it can only continue with your help.
President Wagga Wagga Can Assist
*Sadly, Bradley lost his fight with cancer in March 2019. His father, John, and his brothers remain committed to the Can Assist Wagga Wagga branch and continue to volunteer to help those in their local community.
Can Assist is grateful to Bradley and to the whole Nixon family, for sharing their most personal experiences in order to raise awareness and assist others.
“We as a family discovered the kindness of Can Assist back in 1993 when Alice our daughter, was diagnosed with terminal Leukaemia at age three. We lived in the country and Can Assist helped us with travel expenses and airfares. This help eased the financial pressure as we had four children, the youngest being just nine months old, all living on one wage.
The organisation came to my aid a second time in June 2017, when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I was offered a huge support network for which I will always be grateful. Can Assist supplied the accommodation and some travel costs once again, taking the pressure off us financially.
I work in the medical field so was shocked when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer but quickly realised I couldn’t change it and it was not going to beat me. I could never say “why me” because if it wasn’t me it could be someone I love dearly and that wouldn’t be fair at all. I honestly never thought I would have to face Oncology and Clinics again after Alice’s diagnosis. But here I am.
Being a citrus farmer based in Griffith, I had to take a leave of absence from work for the duration of my treatment and recovery, so having accommodation expenses and some travel costs met was a godsend. My family were comforted with the fact they knew I was safe and living in a treatment free zone. A place where I could cry, laugh or sing if I wanted to, and be able to chat to others receiving the same treatment. It was very therapeutic to sit around the breakfast or dinner table and hear how everyone was faring, we became a family that began as strangers.
The offer of assistance from Can Assist was a huge relief. Without it, I would have had to stay in a motel with all the associated costs and the loneliness that comes with that environment. The alternative was a 450km daily round trip and an enormous financial burden.
Our family and my sisters and their families have been involved with fundraising for Can Assist in both Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga for years, since they helped us with Alice’s expenses. Never did I think I would have to ask Can Assist for help again. But we are very grateful for their assistance.
Thank you Can Assist.