John Brown is one of the early patients of the North West Cancer Centre, located in Burnie Tasmania which opened officially in May 2016. Living in Sheffield, Tasmania, John travelled some distance to access and receive chemotherapy and radiation treatment – about 130 kilometres each day. His wife who often accompanied John to his treatment waited many hours supporting her husband.
If it wasn’t for his wife, John felt that in a couple of years time he could have been dead. He had received a bowel screening test and had thrown it aside with the other he had received twelve months earlier. His wife Anne kept on asking him if he had done the test and said to do it. To shut her up he did it and it came back positive for both samples. A colonoscopy was done where they found a polyp which couldn’t be removed due to its size. A CT scan was done where they found I had lung cancer. This was on 16 December 2016 and on December 22, I was in the Launceston General Hospital, Launceston, Tasmania, having a bronchial tube put down into the lung for a biopsy which confirmed that I had lung cancer.
He has been on Facebook about his journey and now tells everybody – male and female – to do their tests. You can laugh about it but the sooner you find it - if its there - the better you are.
John’s treatment plan involved two and a half cycles of chemotherapy at one week each cycle. He was due to start a third cycle but his veins weren’t cooperating very well and the blood tests weren’t flash. The medical team advised that he had responded very well to treatment. John had thought he would have no more needles but his doctor then sent him down for blood tests. At the same time, John also undergoing radiation therapy every day baring the weekend and public holidays for about 35 days.
The major chemotherapy side effects for John weren’t the loss of hair or feeling nauseous rather he had trouble sleeping and admits to being short tempered some times. John has a bigger bump in the road as recent tests have found cancer meaning he may be up for more treatment in the future.
How the Dry July funded equipment / program helped on the journey
A Wellness Centre was built on the ground floor of the North West Cancer Centre and is devoted to the wellbeing of patients who require access to cancer services in Tasmania’s North West. As a meeting space and furnished using Dry July funding, the Wellness Centre contains a lounge area and kitchen with access to a private courtyard. Services available include counselling and regular cancer support events for patients and their families.
On his first day arriving for treatment and every day after that, John said the first thing that struck him was the behaviour of the staff – the girls at reception and oncology, and the nurses. They were good and they all cared. The Wellness Centre itself was homely and you could relax and the atmosphere was such that you didn’t feel that you were sitting in a waiting room with other sick people. The centre provided a space for John and Anne to take time out of the treatment area and they could also converse with other patients talking about their journeys too.
You can have a cup of coffe, a chat and staff would come and get you when you had radiation or chemotherapy. Staff would say you are next or come through and would often wait until you had finished your coffee. When John’s daughter and her daughter were down from Queensland and they couldn’t believe what was available. The seating and main dining table in the centre was a great place to sit and have a quiet break when you neede it, or you could engage with others if you wanted. John also appreciated the voulunteers contribution to the centre who he found many of them had a cancer experience themselves and it was obvious that they were giving back to the centre themselves.
If there was anything John would recommend, it would be to develop a similar yet smaller room be developed on the third floor for those patients undergoing chemotheraphy. He firmly believes if anybody is in a position to participate in Dry July and support the Wellness Centre, that they will not be sorry because its worth it.
Dry July funds have made a real difference to the lives of people affected by cancer in Tasmania’s North West – including his own.