Every day, 28 South Australians are diagnosed with cancer.
Find out how, through your support, you are making sure that they don’t have to face their diagnosis alone.
By supporting this project once in a generation project, you will enable us to bring together our accommodation, research, prevention and support services to deliver a cancer free future for all South Australians.
Learn more about the impact you will make and the incredible South Australians you will support.
Professor David Roder AM
Chair of Cancer Epidemiology and Population Health in the School of Population Health at the University of South Australia, Professor Roder’s work has highlighted the huge gap in outcomes between those living in regional and remote South Australia and their metropolitan counterparts.
This important study shows South Australians living outside the major urban areas have poorer survival rates than those who live in the city. Shockingly, they are more likely to die within five years of diagnosis the further away from the city they live.
Professor Roder found that, faced with the huge costs of travel and accommodation in the city, and the extra pressure it can place on families, those who do go to the city may end their treatment prematurely. It can have disastrous effects on their health and seriously affect their chances of survival.
Professor Roder’s research highlights this project is so important – it will help reduce the burden of cancer for more South Australians and ultimately, take one step closer to our vision of a cancer free future.
When Scott started getting headaches that just wouldn’t go away, he began to suspect that something might be wrong. After he finally managed to get an MRI scan, he was hit with devastating news. “I was told there was a grapefruit-sized tumour in my right frontal lobe. I was numb. So, so scared. I just thought ‘What on earth is happening to me?” Within hours of speaking with his GP in Mount Gambier, Scott was being rushed to Adelaide for urgent surgery—away from his family, away from everything he knew. Just two days later he was in an operating theatre.
The surgery was considered a success but they couldn’t get all the tumour out. Scott was sent home to rest, and three months later had another MRI. It was another shock. The tumour was still growing fast. This time it was inoperable. Scott was told he was going to start intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment in Adelaide. It would mean leaving home again.
Scott remembers: “I had some family that I was able to stay with, but chose to spend every second week at Cancer Council SA’s Greenhill Lodge. I just needed to be around people who understood what it was like.” For Scott, the Lodge was more than just a bed to sleep in.
“They’d thought of everything—it’s amazing what they do there. I knew I could be driven to and from appointments. I could even do some cooking when I felt up to it.” Scott stayed in Adelaide until his radiation was over.
“It was gruelling. But you realise that this is how it is, and you just have to get on with it.”
Now three and a half years on from his initial diagnosis, Scott is living every day to the fullest. He is truly grateful for the support he received while staying at Cancer Council SA’s Greenhill Lodge.
In 2009 Letchemi was diagnosed with breast cancer. Eighteen months later, cancer once again impacted her life when she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Away from family and friends, Cancer Council’s Lodges provided Letchemi and her husband with a safe haven during treatment.
Letchemi had an operation to remove a large part of my stomach and then underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment simultaneously for five weeks. Having stayed at the Lodges during her first bout of breast cancer treatment, Letchemi knew that she didn’t have to worry about accommodation on top of everything else.
“I was really not very well during that time. I took a month off and then did another round of chemotherapy. It made me even sicker and I ended up in hospital with my husband by my side. My weight dropped to 35kgs”
Letchemi had a blood transfusion, with her oncologist reducing her chemo sessions from six to five, with the last two at a lower dose because she had lost so much weight.
After Letchemi started seeing a dietitian, a nutritionist and a psychologist and took time off. She went for a cruise, read books and reflected and came back a different person and now says she is doing really well.
“Based in regional South Australia, I know just how important the lodges are. They truly are a home away from home, a place of comfort. We’re were all going through the same experience together. I like to say we’re all in the same storm, all trying to get to the same port.”
In June 2019, 33-year-old mum of two Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer following the birth of her second baby. Shocked by the news, Jessica underwent chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy and radiation.
It was during that time that she and her husband reached out to Cancer Council 13 11 20 for information and support.
“The nurses helped us organise a counselling session, which was incredibly helpful as there was so much going on at the time. Through our breast care nurse, we were also referred to Cancer Council SA who helped us to pay one of our bills. It’s those little things that help to alleviate some of the stress of a cancer diagnosis and helped our family get through it,” she said.
Fanny was seven months pregnant when she found out she had a stage 2 soft-tissue sarcoma growing in her leg. She had to choose between undergoing an intense course of aggressive chemotherapy that she thought might harm her baby, or risk not living long enough to meet her.
Fanny chose treatment, and was told she had to go to Adelaide. She remembers: “I didn’t know what was going to happen. Where would we stay? How would this impact my baby? It was completely overwhelming. The stress during that time was just too much.”
With her husband Alex by her side, Fanny travelled to Adelaide for treatment, staying at Cancer Council SA’s lodges for over four months while undergoing the intense treatment that led to the safe but early arrival of baby Léna.
Of course, Fanny was overjoyed to meet her little girl—and to learn that she was safe and well—but it was a tough time for the little family, far from home and desperate to begin a new life as the three of them.
Fanny went through four rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries in one week to remove the tumour from her knee, knowing that one of the best parts of coming out of surgery was that she would get to go home to spend more time with her beautiful baby girl and wonderful husband.
“When I look at my amazing little girl, I’m filled with pride and love. Both our lives were saved thanks to advances in cancer research, and being able to access the best treatment. I didn’t have to choose between my life and my baby’s life.”
A high cost on the community
With the majority of cancer treatment available only in Adelaide, rural South Australians with cancer who need radiotherapy, high-level chemotherapy or specialised surgical procedures are forced to travel to the city. Once they’re there, treatment programs can last for weeks or even months.
Finding an affordable place to stay in the city for an extended period of time just means more expense, more stress and more uncertainty for a regional South Australian who has recently found out they have cancer.
When you consider that they are probably already dealing with the loss of earnings and the high cost of medical treatments, it’s easy to see how the burden of cancer can become a huge problem.
After losing her mother to breast cancer, brother to pancreatic cancer and seeing her husband diagnosed with prostate cancer, Sophie thought her cancer story ended there. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of her family’s trauma and heartbreak. Sophie’s son Sam was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma after discovering a suspicious mole at the back of his head.
After bravely undergoing treatment, Sam lost his life to melanoma aged just 38. He didn’t just leave behind his mum, but also his loving wife and young son Cole.
“While the pain and grief is overwhelming, Sam passing gave me a new sense of purpose,” says Sophie. “By telling Sam’s story, I want to educate people on the risks of skin cancer and just how much damage the sun can do, and more importantly, how skin cancer can be prevented. By protecting ourselves and our loved ones, we can save lives and prevent heartache in loved ones left behind.”
Sophie’s tragic loss had made her more aware than ever of just how vital cancer education and awareness are. “Before Sam was diagnosed, we didn’t really know much about melanoma. We thought it was ‘just skin cancer.’ While, in general, we’re seeing a positive shift in younger generations being more and more SunSmart, there is still a lack of understanding amongst the wider community about melanoma and skin cancer.”