THE Northern Cancer Care Centre on Howick Street offers all the non-clinical support and care a cancer patient or survivor might need, free of charge. More than two years on since the centre first opened its doors, JODIE STEPHENS spends some time getting to know its staff and volunteers and the important role the centre serves in the community..
OPERATING for two years, the Northern Cancer Care Centre has evolved into a collective of goodwill, with the ideas and feedback of Northern Tasmanians touched by cancer taking it to new and unexpected places.
There’s the $10,000 wig library conceived and raised by women from the Launceston Golf Club.
These women also take care of the gardens once a month, and there are vegetable plots grown and maintained by a cancer survivor, who is also known to help fellow centre-goers with their home gardens.
There is Vicki Walkden, who lost her mother to cancer at a time when there was no support, and now visits women newly diagnosed with breast cancer at Launceston General Hospital, offering a bag of useful items also put together by volunteers.
Operations manager Georgina Wylde said skilled volunteers and paid staff also offered massages, pilates classes tailored to women with breast cancer, art-for-relaxation classes, coffee and craft catch-ups, a grief and bereavement support group, a gynaecological cancer support group, prostate cancer information and support sessions and a living well with cancer support group.
Everything is free.
The building has a welcoming, home-like feel, with areas to sit and relax, a television, a cosy fireplace, a kitchen, support workers if needed, and a library of cancer resources.
‘‘The centre is what people want it to be,’’ Ms Wylde said.
‘‘If people are waiting for results and they don’t want to sit in the hospital, they can come down, have a cup of coffee, watch television, their husbands can watch the cricket or whatever they want to do.
‘‘If someone’s neighbour has just been diagnosed with cancer and they don’t know what to do, they don’t know what to say, they can pop in here and we can give them information on whatever it is, tips and advice.’’
Ms Wylde said she had never been touched by cancer, so when she started working at the centre a couple of years ago it was eye-opening.
‘‘There have been a couple of phone calls where I’ve rung to say I have an appointment for someone’s wife or something like that, and they’re not there any more,’’ she said.
‘‘But it turns around when you see someone walk out of here feeling good. There’s ups and downs.’’
She said that as the prevalence of cancer increased and survival rates improved, the role of the centre would continue to evolve.
‘‘As survivorship rates increase hugely, there are all sorts of issues after the treatment, like when do I go back to work? How do I know how much exercise I can do? When will my hair come back?,’’ she said.
‘‘These are the issues that the Cancer Council deals with, and we also want to get out into the rural and remote communities.’’
The Northern Cancer Support Centre will hold an afternoon tea and open day on Tuesday, June 16, to raise awareness of the facility and celebrate 20 years of the Cancer Council in Tasmania.
The open day will run from 10am to 6pm, with no RSVP necessary. The afternoon tea will run from 3pm to 4pm, with RSVPs required by Tuesday, June 9, to gwylde@cancer tas.org.au
For more information on the centre, its groups or programs, call 63418400 or visit www.cancertas.org.au