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Lived Experiences March 10, 2022

The WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre is a really significant initiative for WA and one that is urgently needed.

I bring the perspective of a full-time patient based in Sydney who is mum to two beautiful children. I am currently being treated for an advanced complex cancer at NSW’s comprehensive cancer centre – the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Lifehouse is a truly beautiful place that does not feel like a hospital. It has been carefully designed around the needs of a patient, to be as comfortable and accessible as possible during a very trying and difficult time. I describe it as a sanctuary that I feel safe in. What makes it truly unique is that it does some simple things that completely transform the experience, the treatment and the ability to live with cancer.

Lifehouse is a one-stop-shop as a cancer patient.  The majority of my diagnostics, all my bloodwork, all of my oncologists and all of my treatments (including the pharmacy that dispenses my medications) are done at Lifehouse. It includes the Integrative Oncology team in Lifehouse’s Living Room. This is the team that supports every patient through treatment and recovery with supportive care (bloodwork reviews, pain management), psychological support, reflexology and massage, acupuncture and physiotherapy. Having them integrated with my oncology and my treatment has been essential to my quality of life.

This integrated model is global best practice – treating the whole person and not just the disease.  Whole-person care needs to be an integral and necessary element of cancer treatment to restore the individual to as close a quality of life as they had prior to their diagnosis, and maintain mental and emotional health. It puts the patient back into the centre of the treatment plan, the recovery process and indeed the decision-making of care. By connecting and sharing all the information between the plethora of professionals needed in a single patient’s treatment plan, they work better together.

I frequently talk with people living in WA who have the same cancer I have.  They are in a vulnerable state where they are expected to be in charge of their care as their own health advocate. As long as this occurs, cancer remains a “full-time job” to manage, to lead, to submit to; significantly impeding the rest of life – managing families, holding down employment (in some cases in order to afford treatment) and living beyond cancer. It means a great deal to me that all patients have equal access to integrated and connected referral pathways and treatment teams to keep up the speed so necessary for early diagnosis and successful treatment.  WA patients need and deserve a Lifehouse.

A Comprehensive Cancer Centre for WA integrating the latest research, technology and supportive treatment therapies will improve survivorship, retention of the best oncology minds and drive more accurate diagnostics and treatments that save more lives.  It will position WA at the forefront of comprehensive health care for your community.

I want every person with cancer to have a Lifehouse to go to – a safe space with everything and everyone you need in one place to focus on your care and recovery.