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Hands-on cancer support - the best

Hands-on cancer support - the best

By Suzanne Hansen

Many people in the Mercury Bay Community are unaware of what a special resource we have in the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust (MBCST). Besides raising the critical funds needed to buy the much-needed equipment transportation van, a key goal of the Whiti City Phil’s “FRO-Moval” campaign is to give visibility to what is a unique and valuable resource for anyone given a cancer diagnosis in the Mercury Bay. With the stretched state of our health system in New Zealand, sometimes there are not the systems in place to give each cancer patient a full inventory of all of the services available to them. As a remote satellite location for the Waikato District Health Board(DHB), many of the national resources such as the Cancer Society have very sparse hands-on support in the Mercury Bay. However, because of the MBCST, we have strong, hands-on advocacy, support and care for our local cancer patients through a very experienced volunteer force at a time when they most need it. This is unique in New Zealand and more people need to understand what the organisation does or how it is structured.

Unique in New Zealand Founded over 34 years ago, by Jenny Edwards, the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust (MBCST), is a team of local volunteers who are there to provide patient advocacy, logistical and emotional support for those in our community who have received a cancer diagnosis. All MBCST volunteers are there because they have experienced the cancer journey, either personally, professionally, or through supporting loved ones, and understand the practical considerations of how people living with cancer in the Bay can navigate their own journeys more successfully. The volunteers know their way around, what is available in the community and wider, and how to access it. Working closely with Waikato/Bay of Plenty Cancer Society, this means that local cancer patients get the benefit of both organisations with a front line and hands-on team.

The MBCST offers a customised host of services to cancer patients in all stages of the cancer journey and their support can kick in as soon as a cancer diagnosis is made, usually by referral from the doctor, nurses, family or friends, or self-referral. The real problem is that some patients with recent diagnoses simply do not know what is available. By reaching out to the MBCST, the patient and their family/caregiver can set up a meeting with a volunteer who knows the system and the support mechanisms well. From there they can discuss and organise what the patient’s entitlements and options are and if not already accessed, how to go about getting them in place. The provision of practical and emotional support may include: providing companionship and listening to the concerns of patients and their families; providing relevant resource material and information; providing support while a regular care-giver has a break; practical help with housework, shopping, etc. or facilitating access to these services from other sources; petrol vouchers for treatment/consultant appointments at Thames and Waikato Hospitals (for patients who don’t qualify for government travel grants and are not covered by medical insurance); experienced at-home night sitters and provision of hospital beds/specialised mattresses and other equipment enabling patients to stay at home during terminal stages; providing information about relevant seminars.

Jenny’s story It was in 1988 that Jenny Edwards, a trained Radiographer working at the Thames Hospital founded the MBCST. Jenny went to Auckland for training on new equipment. As a result of a training demonstration, Jenny was diagnosed on the spot with breast cancer. This was an utter shock, and the second time Jenny had been diagnosed with a cancer problem. She was distraught and traumatised, because she was asymptomatic at the time. Jenny recalls this time as being her lowest point. She had also just moved from Thames to Wharekaho, which put her under more stress. At a time when she was feeling incredibly lost, Jenny had a visitor turn up to her front door, out of the blue, with a smiling face, an inspirational book, and a warm hug. The lady, a neighbour, whom she’d never met, said that she had heard through the grapevine that Jenny had received this shock diagnosis and that she wanted to listen to her and help in any way that she could. Jenny recalls this as a turning point in her life, where she stopped feeling sorry for herself and started planning to help others in the same situation. This spawned the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Group which was built to recruit the right people and train them, under the umbrella of the NZ Cancer Society, to provide local and experienced support to those in our community who were going through their own cancer journeys.

By 2017, the local MBCSG had amassed an effective team and was executing an incredibly successful fund-raising campaign, including, but not limited to, the MBCSG Used Bookshop, also unique in NZ. Although the Group had and still maintains a strong relationship with the National Cancer Society, the Group was loathe to see all their hard-won funds disappear out of our community. Hence, they set up the MBCSG as a charitable Trust (MBCST) in order to keep their funding at work in the Mercury Bay. As a result, Mercury Bay has a unique situation for the cancer patient in that we have a very effective local volunteer group which is hands-on, yet backed up by the larger national Cancer Society pool of resources.

Jenny went so far as to say that “the Mercury Bay has far better services here than those living down the road from our DHB in Hamilton”

The priority Now the MBCST needs you. Any amount you can donate will be gladly accepted on the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust Van Appeal Give-A-Little page., or by EFTPOS at the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust Bookstore on Blacksmith Lane and in Whiti City Cab vans. Gold coin (and more) donations can also be made at buckets on all our sponsor premises. Please be generous.

And should you or someone close to you be given a cancer diagnosis, then please reach out to the MBCST. The best contacts are Ruth Young on (021) 363 840 and Jody Bower 027 3332015


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