There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing someone has your back. Just ask Krystyna Wisniewski and John Anthony Strong. Their support for their community, and each other, knows no bounds.
Not only do the pair give up their time to help cancer patients in Melbourne’s west, they also supported each other through breast cancer diagnoses within a year of each other.
Every Wednesday, you’ll find the pair in the basement of Sunshine Hospital, busily packing ‘goodies’ into purple and white bags. These Cancer Care packs contain all the little things that make a big difference to patients receiving treatment at Western Health. Like special skin creams that provide a soothing barrier for your delicate skin to harsh treatments. Or a digital thermometer, so that you know when your fluctuating temperature needs to be tamed.
Perhaps it’s a notebook to record the flurry of clinical information that comes your way, just as the brain fog and fatigue sets in, or, to document how you are feeling as you navigate your diagnosis, treatment and beyond.
As cancer survivors, John and Krystyna know these feelings all too well.
John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, one of approximately 150 Australian men diagnosed with the disease annually. He had his treatment and aftercare at Western Health and still undergoes yearly checkups, given his strong family history of breast cancer.
"My mother and two sisters died of breast cancer and I’m the only male to have it, but you’ve just got to face it and get on with life the best you can,"— John said.
Whilst he was sick, John received a BreastWest Care Pack. Now, thanks to the generosity of the Western Health staff and community, who raised money during the WalKWest and the Larapinta Adventure Challenge, 1000 patients receive the Cancer Care packs every year.
John reckons the pack was so brilliant that when the opportunity came to get involved with preparing the bags, he didn’t hesitate to help.
“I just want to give back to the community and this is a way that I can help other cancer patients. I got one when I was sick and it was a big help.”
One year before John was diagnosed; Krystyna received her own breast cancer diagnosis. Although she was treated at a different health service, the experience spurred her into action.
"All I was given there was a stack of booklets on cancer to read and it was so overwhelming, I threw most of it in the bin,"— Krystyna said.
After she went into remission, she began packing the cancer care packs for the Foundation.
“I just wanted to give back to the community and show that there are people out there who really care,” she said.
“Knowing that there are these packs to provide to cancer patients is fantastic. Sadly, we know that far too many people will need them.”
John and Krystyna feel proud to play a small, but incredibly important part in ensuring cancer patients receive the best care possible.
Demand for Cancer Care packs continues to grow.
Western Health provides treatment to more than 3,000 cancer patients each year.
To ensure as many patients as possible can receive these special packs, sign up to WalkWest, a fundraiser that challenges people to walk a marathon (42km) in 21 days. You can walk anytime, anywhere and the money you raise could go towards supporting patients with their treatment and recovery.