Survive and thrive

Castlemaine cancer survivor Jeanette Johnston.

Castlemaine cancer survivor Jeanette Johnston.

Thriving in life is the focus of a free information program that Castlemaine Health is offering for people whose lives have been affected by cancer.

The two-day program taking place over November 28 and December 5 aims to inform locals of the wide array of services now available through Castlemaine Health's Cancer Survivorship Service.

Cancer survivors like Castlemaine's Jeanette Johnston, who has battled melanoma, says the new service has been highly beneficial in many ways - ranging from the financial and the legal to the social and physiological.

"I've had melanoma on and off over the last three years and I've just had my 10th surgery," says Jeanette, a retired teacher who enjoys playing ukulele in her spare time.

"I was reluctant at first but I've gained so much from this service. I just found it enormously helpful in so many ways. I wasn't aware of the service before I went to the information sessions."

Jeanette says that as a result of attending the sessions she has discovered a whole new world of services available locally to help out on numerous fronts.

She also says that attending the information sessions and mingling with other cancer survivors has been a uniquely supportive experience in itself.

"I had no idea that just hearing and sharing stories with others who have been through the same sort of experience is so helpful," Jeanette says.

"To have that outlet to be able to just talk about it with professionals and others who've experienced what you have. They're very welcoming.

"A lot of people don't know about the service, but it can be very empowering. It's supported by the Cancer Council and it's there for everyone."

The Cancer Survivorship Service provides care plans and support to help cancer survivors and their carers regain strength, health and quality of life.

Previously local people wanting specialist cancer support faced journeys of up to several hours as they travelled to larger centres.

Now the new service means allied health and nursing professionals who have been upskilled in issues facing cancer survivors are much closer to home.

The team includes physiotherapists, an occupational therapist, social worker, speech pathologist, counsellor, continence nurse and more.

The service began in May this year with funding from the DHHS Victorian Cancer Survivorship Program which was designed to help develop innovative models of follow-up care and address the needs of survivors after treatment.

The new service is provided by the Community Rehabilitation Centre in partnership with Castlemaine District Community Health.

"I would describe it as a life saver. I would have fallen into a bad depression without it," another local service user says.

Registrations and more information about the upcoming Wellness and Life After Cancer program is available from Julie Symons at Castlemaine Health.