Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre

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The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ Cancer Centre) is a comprehensive cancer centre dedicated to providing leading medical treatment and breakthrough research, complemented by the best in wellness and supportive care. Patients are at the centre of everything we do and we empower their mind, body and spirit to be as strong as possible to manage one of the biggest challenges of their lives. By raising funds for Dry July, you are helping ensure the survival of wellness and supportive care at the ONJ Cancer Centre, which is not funded by the government. A vital part of emotional and physical health during cancer treatment, research shows that participating in wellness programs can increase patients’ chances of survival and minimises the risk of some cancers returning. Offering support through oncology massage, gentle yoga, art and creativity groups and specialist exercise programs helps patients manage the stress and anxiety that comes with cancer diagnosis and treatment and helps them to feel emotionally stronger. We rely on our community to raise funds for wellness and supportive care at the ONJ Cancer Centre, which is why Dry July is so important for us. Thank you for being an amazing Dry July’er!

Latest Updates

Going dry is a small price to pay

After his mum Jan was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in her spine in June last year, Ben Charles committed himself to joining up for Dry July, a fundraiser that encourages people to go alcohol-free in July to improve the comfort and wellbeing of people affected by cancer.

 “I had just found out my mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in her spine, I was kind of in a daze…not knowing what the future may hold,” says Ben. “Up late one night, I saw the Dry July TV commercial…it really grabbed me and I signed up straight away.”

Ben says Jan’s cancer diagnosis put a lot of things into perspective for him and trivial things, like alcohol, became insignificant.

“I realised by doing Dry July I had the ability to help people like Mum through the efforts of missing a few beers. Such a small price to pay when I think of my children missing out on sharing moments with their nanna. If the extended care and comfort helps extend the quality of life of a loved one then missing out on a few beers is a tiny price to pay.”

Ben raised over $1,000 which is helping ensure the survival of wellness and supportive care at the ONJ Cancer Centre. These programs, like oncology massage, gentle yoga, art and creativity groups and specialist exercise programs, help patients manage the stress and anxiety that comes with cancer diagnosis and treatment, and rely on community support for their survival.

After undergoing extensive surgery to her spine, Jan, a primary school teacher, has gone back to work part-time and is currently working 20 hours per week.

“She refuses to let the news bring her enthusiasm for life down,” says Ben. “But it is comforting to know that wonderful places like the ONJ Centre exist and are available for us when we need them.”

“The quality of life and the time we spend with loved ones is what we are trying to extend. The ONJ Centre helps that process to be easier regardless of condition or prognosis.”

Surprisingly, Ben also found that spreading the word about his Dry July fundraising page resulted in many messages of hope and support from his extended network.

“By far the most rewarding part was the extended well-wishes and donations, and that this challenging news in our lives had gone to some good.”

Ben can’t wait to take on Dry July again this year.

“It’s another opportunity to do some good, update everybody with Mum’s progress, light off the beers and raise some money!”

The ONJ Centre receives funds raised directly for the Centre by fundraisers (last year $70,000 was raised by our wonderful community), and we also receive grant funding from the Dry July Foundation. Since 2014, Dry July has been a strong supporter of the ONJ Centre providing over $600,000 in grants for wellness and supportive care programs.

You can make a donation to Ben's fundraising page by clicking HERE                        

Using art as therapy - A carers story

When cancer suddenly enters, life is turned upside down. Uncertainty, instability and anxiety are common emotions for patients, carers and families. Jo Hogan, carer for partner Lori Crupi who was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2016, shares an honest and raw insight into living with cancer, and how art therapy has provided a place of solace amongst their journey of emotional chaos.

“Lori and I had gone to the doctor for our end-of-year annual health check. Lori was advised that her haemoglobin was dangerously low and had to go to hospital for an immediate transfusion,” says Jo. “She did not even go home to get things to take to the hospital. One minute we finished up our monthly Board Meeting (Jo and Lori run a business together) and the next minute life and business had been turned on its head.”

“Lori has blood cancer. There is no cure for her at this stage, just management. This includes weekly monitoring of her blood and a weekly blood transfusion which can take up to six hours. We are here at the ONJ Centre a minimum of two days each week.”

Before cancer, Jo and Lori lived a busy and active life filled with family, their business, travel, supporting their beloved football club, volunteering in their local community, helping with fundraisers, donating to charities.

“Together we have always been a resilient team,” says Jo. “We were used to dealing with uncertainly in our lives, but blood cancer, for us at this moment, is here to stay.”

“Initially, we were reluctant to take up the ‘non-medical’ support offered at the ONJ Centre for fear of being engulfed by the ‘cancer world’,” says Jo. “But unfortunately it is not something one can avoid as the journey progresses.”

“Our life and world are much smaller than they once were,” says Jo. “However we are grateful for all the support we have received and find happiness in the little things that life has to offer. We are very content these days. The Wellness Centre and Art Therapy Open Studio, out of everything at the hospital, are major contributors to this.”

When asked to talk about art therapy, Jo’s response is genuine and heartfelt : “Where do I begin and how does one express the incredible value of these wonderful sessions?”

Senior Art Therapist Fiona Scottney explains how participating in creative pursuits, such as art, can help with relaxation, relief from stress, a sense of accomplishment, connection to tradition, increased happiness, reduced anxiety, enhanced confidence, as well as cognitive abilities including improved memory, concentration and ability to think through problems.

“Painting and drawing focus on repetitive actions and a skill level that can be improved upon. Art Therapy at the ONJ Centre provides the opportunity to have time, space, art materials, safety and community in an environment where ideas, imagination and creativity can flourish with the support of an art therapist.”

“The thing I have enjoyed the most is looking at my blank canvas and going with the flow in the moment,” says Jo. “The greatest lesson is to face the fear and do it anyway, knowing that I am not judged and free to express myself and see and feel things that sometimes I may not have been present to in the cancer journey.”

“Some days, I may have had an anxious morning due to Lori’s results or perhaps to how she may be feeling. At times like this, I may take an hour just to get my paints together, stare out the window, simply watch others in the Open Studio paint and when appropriate, have a chat. This helps me feel connected, understood and re-inspired.”

“Our art therapist has a wonderful way of understanding our feelings and gently guiding us in the right direction. Sometimes it is just letting us be and providing space for us to be with our thoughts and feelings until I find my way to a canvas to paint.”

The Art Therapy Open Studio group meets every Wednesday from 2-4pm in the Wellness Centre and is open to patients as well as their carers.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity as a carer to be able to participate in the Open Studio with Lori,” says Jo. “Sometimes we just sit next to each other and paint with no words, or we encourage each other. It opens up conversations about our inner feelings that we may not have previously realised were there. Sometimes we just let the art and the process do the talking.”

“I have learnt about detachment, being in the moment, how I interpret the world around me, how to deal with the chaos of the journey – all at my own pace and choice. We are in well-qualified hands of art therapists who have the skills and ability to not only help us open ourselves to the art, but discover insights to help us find meaning and purpose from our feelings.”

Art therapy has helped Lori and Jo have important input into Lori’s treatment and management plan.

“We use the strength and peace we gain from art therapy to speak with clarity and courage to our doctors, to ask questions and to help Lori feel she has some sense of control over her cancer (as much as one can),” says Jo. “It’s about the whole person, not just the cancer. I have learned with cancer, it’s not the cancer itself that causes challenges for us, it is the side effects of the treatment (treatment for which we are most grateful). This requires stamina and getting the best performance out of ourselves.”

Lori initially benefited from immunotherapy for her blood cancer, however it gradually lost its effectiveness and current treatment for Lori is a weekly blood transfusion.

“Whilst waiting for another breakthrough or a new clinical trial, we must keep clear-headed, strong, resilient and well. Well enough so that when a new treatment is available, Lori is well enough in body and mind to deal with it and the side effects. This is why art therapy is a key in our approach to managing her cancer and the side effects of her treatment.”

“Art therapy is the here and now of our well-being and provides some stability in the uncertainty.” – Jo Hogan, carer

Wellness programs like art therapy give hope and emotional strength to our patients, their families and carers, helping them negotiate one of the most stressful times of their lives. These programs would not exist without support from our donors, including the ONJ Centre community and the Dry July foundation.

Jo is very grateful for the existence of art therapy, and encourages ongoing support from the community.

“It may not be a program where you can see your name on a plaque,” says Jo. “Your walking billboard is that Lori is alive and well, she herself is the physical asset. Art therapy has enabled us to live in the present, deal with uncertainty and have hope and strength for the future.”

“By contributing to the art therapy program at the ONJ Centre, you provide the survival toolbox for us to stay strong, well, happy, connected and to see ourselves as more than cancer. Our life is not on hold while we wait for new research breakthroughs.” – Jo Hogan, carer


Dry July Foundation visit the ONJ Centre

In December, we were honoured to be asked to hold Dry July’s Board Meeting (the first time they have held a board meeting outside of Sydney) and our Acting CEO, Dr Mary O’Reilly, was delighted when Dry July CEO and founder Brett MacDonald announced that Dry July Foundation would be giving an additional $97,400 in grant funding to the ONJ Centre. This makes 2018 our most successful year yet with over $180,000 coming from Dry July Foundation to support vital wellness programs, improving patient comfort, care and wellbeing. 

You can read more about the visit and the projects that the funding is being used for by clicking HERE.

Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre receives a grant from the Dry July Foundation

We're proud to announce that Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre has received a grant from the Dry July Foundation 2018 Grant Program.

The grant will go towards the following: 

• Gentle yoga for cancer patients to improve sleep, decrease stress and enhance quality of life

• Creating music memories: using clinical song writing to create songs written by people experiencing cancer with the assistance of music therapists

• Cancer Information and Resource Service to help patients access information related to their diagnosis and prognosis, assists in making treatment decisions to empower them in this process, and accessing support services

• Oncology Massage for cancer patients to reduce pain, fatigue, anxiety, nausea and depression

• LiveWell, a post-treatment group to provide information and help develop practical skills in managing a healthy lifestyle whilst coping with the after effects of their cancer and its treatment


Wellness Programs at ONJ Cancer Wellness & Research Centre

Oncology Massage, Gentle Yoga and an Oncology Dietitian were among the programs funded by the Dry July Foundation.

Patients at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, have access to a Multidisciplinary Team who are committed to ensuring they are cared for physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. The ONJ Centre are committed to supporting patients through every step of their treatment. They provide a caring and supportive environment and offer a wide range of Wellness & Supportive Care Programs to help patients and their family members manage a challenging time in the best way possible. 

The Wellness & Supportive Care Team at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre coordinate a range of evidence-based therapies and programs. These programs are designed to provide support, information and offer strategies to assist you during your treatment and following the completion of your treatment care. 

One of their patients, Anne, talks about how the gentle yoga program helped during her recovery. "Gentle yoga was just amazing. It gave me contact with other people so I felt I wasn’t isolated or doing it alone,” says Anne. “It was six sessions and we were all able to take our own journey within the class and do it at our own pace. The relaxation was lovely, it taught me to give myself time and be kind to myself, I learnt breathing techniques and other beautiful things to help me in distressing situations.”.

You can read more about Anne's journey here.