Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Cancer Support Services in Ku-ring-gai

Hornsby Relay for Life 2019

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (18:27:03): I acknowledge the fantastic support services available in Ku-ring-gai for the individuals and their families who are or have been impacted by cancer. Any diagnosis, despite the type, evokes a wide range of emotions such as fear, depression and helplessness. With all the uncertainties and, more importantly, loss of physical control, the need for emotional support services such as centres, face-to-face, helplines and email groups in our communities is vital. It allows patients, family members and even carers to voice their concerns in a safe environment.

According to the New South Wales Cancer Council, research has shown that people who take part in support groups similar to the ones at the Sydney Adventist Hospital—known as the San—in Wahroonga and the Prostate Cancer Support Group at the Royal North Shore in St Leonards have lower levels of anxiety and depression than people who do not take part. These groups offer a sense of belonging and empowerment and a place of relaxation in times of high stress. The San hospital in Wahroonga is home to the Cancer Support Centre, which is also linked to Jacaranda Lodge. Founded in 1993 they provide support services to everyone in our community.

The support centre offers a wide range of free support groups, counselling, resources and information. Jacaranda Lodge, which is located onsite at the San hospital, is a home away from home for those requiring low‑cost accommodation and has an open courtyard and separate garden for meditation and relaxation. Movember is the month that raises awareness of men's health issues, including prostate cancer, which is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and in the top three with breast and lung cancer. Although I am not growing a mo this year—but I know many who are—I wish to recognise the Prostate Cancer Support Group, who run their program out of Jacaranda Lodge.

It is a group that is open to all members of my community. Interested people do not have to be patients at the hospital to join. Meeting quarterly, patients, family members and carers are able to share their journeys, learn more about the disease and discuss different types of management. As we hear on television, read in the paper or are told by our doctor, prostate cancer is subtle and it is very easy for someone to go about their day unaware they may have it. This support group offers the emotional comfort for men who either are dealing with a current diagnosis or are survivors. Members have found it to be a rewarding experience.

It is important to note that many of these support services, which are readily accessible in Ku-ring-gai and throughout New South Wales, are only available due to fundraising events that are held by community groups such as sporting clubs, rotary clubs, individuals and corporates. For many of us, fundraising has become a part of our lives since an early age. At school we may have sold chocolates or biscuits if we were part of Scouts or Guides. Today we hold morning teas, golf days or wear-a-ribbon days and we go to nationwide events like the McGrath Foundation's Pink Cricket Test. Each year the San hospital holds the San Run For Life, with the proceeds going towards the cancer services that support our community. I know that the member for Hornsby, who is present in the Chamber, has participated in that event. The event was held in August this year and had around 800 participants who braved the winter morning. It was a great effort from all involved—the sponsors, volunteers and participants—and the hospital raised $10,000.

More recently I was invited by Wahroonga resident Yvonne McMaster, OAM, to the Cancer Council's sixteenth Hornsby Relay For Life. This event attracts thousands of eager fundraisers. This year they had 38 teams, 445 participants and 78 survivors and carers. Hornsby Relay For Life is part of a worldwide movement to edge closer to a cancer-free future. As of last week they had raised $80,000 and that number is only climbing to their target of $90,000, with every dollar going towards support, research and advocacy work for patients both today and in the future.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the volunteers. It was great to see so many people in the community come together to support this cause. I look forward to attending next year. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2019 one in three men and one in four women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 75. But diagnosis is just that. My father had bowel cancer at 58 but lived to a very healthy 92½ years of age. This emphasises why the Ku-ring-gai community offers such valuable services to cancer patients and their families. On behalf of the community, I thank all of the medical professionals, carers and supporters for providing world-class support to our family and friends who are dealing with cancer.