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World Cancer Day an opportunity to remember health battles continue despite pandemic

Sandra Suggett says the care she receives at Gold Coast Health makes her cancer journey easier.

With conversations about health dominated by COVID-19 for the past 12 months, Gold Coast Health Clinical Nurse Consultant Debbie Royal says World Cancer Day (4 February 2021) is a good time to stop and remember that other health battles continue.

“Especially in the current circumstance, we have a pandemic to worry about, but patients with cancer are still in the battle of their lives every single day and it is so important we don’t forget that,” she said.

“Especially around World Cancer Day, we can support those who are battling this horrible disease and be there for them, raise funds, talk about it and importantly, go get tested if you are concerned.”

Sandra Suggett was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of the bone marrow, six years ago.

The Varsity Lakes grandmother initially received two years of chemotherapy then spent two years in remission before the cancer returned. The 67-year- old has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis.

She attends Gold Coast Health University Hospital Oncology and Blood Disorders Ambulatory Care Unit twice a week to receive chemotherapy and magnesium and potassium infusions. 

Sandra said she couldn’t have faced her health challenges without the care of the day oncology unit.

“It’s not only the medication you get, it’s the smile you get when you come in,” Sandra said.

“The staff look after everything, you have a problem, they are onto it straight away.

“You see the staff sometimes more than you see your girlfriends because you are seeing them every week, twice a week.

“When you are having the treatment, you are tired constantly and you see people sitting there, dropping off to sleep and the staff make sure you have a blanket. It’s the little things you don’t expect,” she said. 

CNC Debbie has worked in the unit for the past decade and seen the number of patients grow significantly. About 1400 patients a month are treated in the day unit with about 5000 patients seen in the outpatient department.

“In past five or six years we have more immunotherapy treatments that are able to treat things like melanoma and lung cancers that may have not previously been able to be treated. So people are living longer with fewer side effects,” Debbie said.

“The first day coming for a treatment, could be one of the most frightening days of a patient’s life. We like to ensure people are coming into a friendly environment and feel supported, psychologically and medically. 

“The staff in this unit works as a team. We support each other but more than anything, the patients support us. We can’t really have a bad day knowing these patients are coming and battling something so severe and still have a smile on their faces.

“It’s a privilege and an honour to get to work with these patients who we get to know so well.”

Last updated 04 Feb 2021