The Royal Melbourne Hospital

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The Royal Melbourne’s comprehensive cancer services are available to every Victorian in need of cancer care, support and treatment. Our service is internationally renowned and is one of Victoria’s largest cancer care and treatment centres, treating thousands of patients each year. As demand for cancer services increase, there is growing pressure on equipment, patient care items and infrastructure resources which are critical to ensure we to provide excellence in cancer care.

With your support this Dry July, we’re aiming to raise much needed funds which will enable The Royal Melbourne continue to provide the best possible care for our cancer patients.

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By participating in Dry July and raising funds for The Royal Melbourne Hospital, you'll be helping provide support to people like Kelly

2020 will be a year Kelly O’Sullivan never forgets. COVID was running rampant all over the world, Melbourne was in lockdown and Kelly was diagnosed with head and neck cancer.

Kelly was no stranger to head and neck cancer as her step father battled with the disease, but it still came as a shock. Kelly was fit, active and very social with 2 grown up children and a 4 year old who kept her on her toes. Following a dental check, a lesion was found in her inner cheek lining. After having this closely monitored for around 3 years, an epic ulcer developed in her mouth and then her tongue. Kelly’s regular specialist appointment was cancelled because of COVID but when her pain became so bad, she was ordered to come into The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Initially, Kelly thought it would just require scraping and she would be given some pain killers, but realised the worst when she was told she had Stage 4 cancer requiring a full jaw reconstruction. Kelly is bubbly, vivacious and a fighter. Her first reaction was “All right, its game on. Let’s go”. She was frightened but more determined to fight this than let it overcome her.

Kelly and her husband Rory worried about how to tell their son Winton. “Because it was through COVID, we had this extra thing of him watching or hearing news and COVID and this and the other, so when we had the chat about mom being sick, he said, "Oh, have you got COVID, Mum?" And I said, "No, I have cancer." He said, "Oh, phew." He was relieved. Cancer was the better option to COVID”.

Life became a whirlwind after that with never ending appointments, a 14 hour lifesaving surgery to rebuild her jaw and acquiring an infection just 7 days later. COVID meant that her family couldn’t visit so Kelly had to find other ways to communicate during her 20 day stay in hospital. “I couldn’t talk for 8 or 9 days after surgery which was especially heartbreaking for Winton. Instead, I made a series of videos that Rory played to Winton every morning and every night – he would play them over and over again. He also gave me his little Paw Patrol teddy to look after and that teddy became the star of the videos. I was secretly happy that we couldn’t see each other because of COVID - having to say goodbye every day would have been devastating. FaceTime was much easier, not chatting at all but watching the same programs together”.

Kelly credits her recovery to the fabulous nurses who became like a surrogate family to her, the amazing surgeons and more recently, the head and neck support group at the RMH who have become lifelong friends. She is also eternally grateful to the whole community of Gembrook and her family and friends who rallied around her and gave her an unbelievable amount of support.

Kelly’s message today is "Go to the dentist. If you've got dentures or teeth or whatever, go and get a mouth check. I had a client say to me, "Oh, I don't need to go to the dentist. I don't have any teeth." And I'm like, “You've got cheeks and you've got lining and that can grow things really quickly”

“Put yourself first so you can stay around for the rest of your family and friends, or whoever. Because it's unbelievable. One little thing, it just changes your life so much”.

“I owe my life to the amazing staff at RMH, going dry for July is the very least I can do in order to raise much needed funds and awareness for this terrible illness. While my fight is far from over, I am able to find the strength to continue each and every day surrounded by so much love and support”.

To support Kelly’s Dry July campaign or become a member of Kelly’s Cancer Warriors, please go to

All funds raised support patient care at The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

If there is one thing that 202O showed us it is that we all crave connection, and that music is such a strong vehicle for that connection.

We are so grateful to the Dry July Foundation for their support to help us create mini portable recording set ups, for us to expand on our therapeutic songwriting session with people living with cancer and their families- and literally help us ‘bring the studio session’ to them.

If there is one thing that 202O showed us it is that we all crave connection, and that music is such a strong vehicle for that connection. During our lockdowns we see the impact of how hard it is to be alone for everyone and this is magnified for all our patients. Often people living with cancer are isolated in their treatment without the pandemic, so add one in, and things are really, really, tough. Music therapy has been in high demand and we had to find ways to provide a safe and meaningful service through technology and our therapeutic songwriting shone through.

Therapeutic songwriting provides opportunity for self-expression and connection and, in many cases, gives patients the empowering chance to learn new skills.

Our award-winning therapeutic songwriting program was developed here at RMH and the addition of the portable music therapy studios means that patients can be involved in the creation of a polished version of their composition, replacing the lo-fi phone recordings of single performances. Being able to create backing tracks, layer instruments, edit and re-record sections of the song and capturing an overall superior audio recording results in a better sounding, ultimately resulting in a more pleasurable recording experience. The lo-fi phone recordings are now replaced with polished presentations of the compositions which patients can be truly proud of and that they can share with their loved ones.

It is very clear when we arrive on the ward that nursing and medical staff are happy to see the patients in their care having access to music therapy. The program is about the whole individual, about creative opportunities, about comfort, care, joy- its about connecting in music.

We work as a multidisciplinary team here at RMH Haematology Unit and Bone Marrow Transplant and having Dry July Foundation as a partner in helping us care for our patients truly increases our patients’ quality of life and that is a gift for us all.

Thank you Dry July Foundation!

Dr Emma O’Brien OAM, Head Clinician and Founder of Music Therapy

John Bedggood, Senior Clinician Music Therapy

A snap-shot reflection into a therapeutic songwriting in music therapy experience from Jack who was admitted to RMH for treatment for leukaemia: 

Jack had a young daughter and, while he was from a close family, restrictions meant that he was unable to have visitors during music of his admission for treatment.

Jack was usually an upbeat person, even with his diagnosis, but it soon became clear that the visitor restrictions were causing him some stress. Not only was Jack missing the face-to-face contact with his loved ones, but he was also feeling the pressure of wanting to protect his family from what he was going through.

He reflected that he was being a rock for everyone, including himself at times, which was a coping mechanism of sorts to a certain point. But the lighted hearted and upbeat persona Jack adopted during conversation with family and friends was often followed by a slump into despair when he was alone in his hospital room. Jack was still coming to terms with his diagnosis as much as his family was.

As soon as we introduced the idea of songwriting to Jack he was eager to engage. The song he composed was ultimately one of hope. He could see how he could connect with his loved ones in creating a song, and also have a safe space to express his feelings.

The key line in the song talks about how he is not done yet and that there is much more he wants to do with his family. In it he talked about looking to turn his experience of illness completely around. He described how he had always considered that he would be the one to look after one of his family members should they ever become ill, and how his plan had not considered that he would be the one to get sick.

Jack’s lyrics outline not only the coping mechanisms he uses but also talk about the days where he sees himself in the mirror and is forced to recognise how ill he is and the long road ahead.

In our discussions after writing the song Jack felt that the process had provided him with an outlet to express some of the feelings that he had found difficult to articulate.

It was also an opportunity to be honest about the way he was feeling, outlining the challenges he was regularly keeping from his family and friends in conversations for their protection. Jack felt that he would share the song with his loved ones when he was home with the new recording, which also sounded full of hope, and he was very proud of it.

Name changed to protect privacy

The Royal Melbourne Hospital benefits from Dry July funding

Your fundraising for Dry July has enabled The Royal Melbourne Hospital to purchase items for:

Breezy Relax Wheelchair – this will enable lower level brain and spinal cord tumour patients to leave the ward with their families

Ipads / Bluetooth speaker – to assist patients with primary brain tumours to stay connected to their family and friends via social media, email and video calls

Wig Library – providing dignity for women undergoing chemotherapy with associated hair loss

Breast reconstruction photo album – helping women requiting a mastectomy with decision making

Head & Neck patient care room – providing a room where head & neck, gastro and hepatobiliary patients can tube feed in privacy

Mobile studios – to deliver our therapeutic songwriting program safely in our specialized ‘Hepa filtrated’ rooms in our Haematology Ward, and also in the garden to meet the need of our cancer inpatients and families

Clothing & Toiletries – providing dignity and lessen anxiety experienced by patients who have no access to changes of clothing or toiletries

Furniture for family meeting room – to create a comfortable, safe environment whilst supporting patients and their families

Forte Zephair Critical Care Pain & Pressure Mattresses - to provide comfort and pain management in terminal stages of life

The Royal Melbourne Hospital are so grateful for your support and contribution to making a positive difference in the lives of people affected by cancer. Dry Julyers, you should be so proud.

By going Dry this July, you’re helping the Royal Melbourne Hospital support people like Steve and Robyn.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, this year is even more significant than ever for our cancer patients.

For RMH cancer patient, Steve Mahoney, life has changed dramatically after he received his diagnosis in July 2019. After discovering a mouth ulcer, he went straight to the doctor. Steve considers himself a fighter, so the word ‘cancer’ did not frighten him. While both Steve and his wife of 12 years, Robyn were prepared for the battle, they admitted they did not know anything about head and neck cancer, or what lay ahead as they drove to the RMH from the Mornington Peninsula for treatment. Steve soon had to give up working in the panel beating business in preparation for the many months of surgery and treatment.

Steve’s cancer resulted in many complications – infections, jaw dislocation, two tracheotomies, all within six months in and out of the hospital. One of the operations was longer than 12 hours. At one point, Steve had to prepare for the worst and organise his affairs. It was a stressful time, and he owes his strength to Robyn’s support. He told us that he would leave messages for Robyn on a whiteboard before going into each surgery telling her how he wouldn’t be able to get through these challenges without her.

When Steve heard about the Dry July campaign, he did not hesitate to sign up as an ambassador.

“The staff were amazing and kept me informed every step of the way, especially when I had my tracheotomies. Robyn was by my side every night at the hospital. When the COVID-19 visitor restrictions were introduced, she could only see me for an hour a day but the RMH staff continued to keep her in the loop. We felt so cared for, and the RMH became a ‘safe house’ for us.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, this year is even more significant than ever for our cancer patients. Sign up to Dry July today to ensure The RMH continue to provide cancer patients with the highest level of comfort and wellbeing during this pandemic.

Read Steve’s full story here:

The balcony garden funded by Dry July Foundation is complete!

Thanks to funds raised in Dry July 2019, The Royal Melbourne Hospital was able to develop a fresh look for their palliative unit by creating beautiful gardens for patients to enjoy.

The gardens have made a significant impact on patients during their stay at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, with staff receiving comments like, "It is lovely - it reminds me of my own garden." 

Another patient who was at the hospital for end of life care loved the garden and requested to have her bed angled towards the garden at all times so that it was her view throughout the day.

Thanks to the funds raised by the 2019 Dry July Foundation, this wonderful addition to the Palliative Care and Supportive Care Unit has most certainly added to the quality of life to the patients and their families!