DECEMBER 2014 - PAGE 5
OF CHRISTMAS Christmas can mean a festive yet frantic time for many of us. Christmas tree up and decorated? Check. Presents sorted for school teachers? Check. Christmas party plans? Check. Stop there. What does Christmas mean to you? What is your ideal picture of Christmas time? Perhaps it’s to have some time off from work, enjoying a nice day with presents and yummy food, or to simply be surrounded by your family in the comfort of your own home? Well, sadly this isn’t the case for everyone. It is impossible to imagine on any given day what it would feel like to learn your child needs urgent cancer treatment or surgery, let alone at Christmas time. Hundreds of families in Victoria will be spending this Christmas with a child battling cancer. Amongst these families, a number of them live in the Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast areas. What do they have in common? They are supported by cancer support network, Challenge. Challenge, a Victorian not-for-profit organisation, provides daily support to these children and their families throughout their cancer journey, with the wellbeing of every family member being the fundamental concern. The Bouma family from Ocean Grove had their lives rocked when their 11 year old son Joshua was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia, a blood disorder, in March. Josh has been home three times in seven and a half months. “Challenge helped us with the practical things. They came and picked my husband and I up from the hospital, where Josh was being treated, and provided us with massages at the Challenge Family Centre,” Hilary Bouma said. Josh has just reached his 100 days of isolation following his bone marrow transplant. During that time, the Wallington Primary School student was isolated from everyone except immediate family and hospital staff. Challenge helps patients like Josh during difficult times by providing hospital support. This includes bringing in DVDs, iPads, gaming consoles and even celebrity visits.
“One of the highlights of Josh’s whole year was getting to meet Geelong player Jimmy Bartel and comedian Andy Lee, which Challenge organised. Challenge just really help with these special non-medical things. I have the opportunity to go on Thursday morning walks with other Challenge Mums, which is a great break from the hospital,” Hilary added. Another support Challenge provides is holiday accommodation. Challenge offers three wonderful accommodation facilities; one in Torquay, in Lake’s Entrance and another on the Gold Coast. These properties can be utilised by Challenge families for up to one week free of charge and were created by Challenge specifically to promote family unity. “It’s a top priority at Challenge to do what we can to help families stay together and happy through one of the toughest times of their lives. Challenge understands the importance of families spending quality time together and how much more precious this time is during cancer treatment due to the extensive amounts of time spent by the child in hospital,” Challenge CEO David Rogers said. These retreats also allow mums to spend weekends together talking, relaxing and being pampered. Over these weekends, the mums are offered relaxation and beauty treatments, which is how Torquay resident Lisa Copeland became familiar with Challenge. “I have worked at Soul Skin in Torquay since the start of the year and have got to know some of the Challenge mums quite well through the massages they get whilst on retreat. I came to learn what a wonderful organisation Challenge is and I really enjoyed being able to help the mums feel good,” Lisa said. “Recently, I was massaging a lady who had just lost a child. It was a very emotional experience. We spoke the whole time, which is a first for me. It was a beautiful thing being able to hear her story and offer my support,” Lisa added.
This occurred on a Saturday morning. A couple of days later, Lisa’s 15 year old daughter Alice was diagnosed with leukaemia. “It was just surreal. The timing of the situation and how I have had contact with Challenge mums in this situation, and now I’m one of them,” Lisa said. Alice, a Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College student, has started treatment. Her family, which consists of an older brother and sister and her parents, will be supported by Challenge. Other ways Challenge supports children living with cancer and their siblings is through camps. Challenge camps are conducted throughout the year in a fun and supportive environment and cater for kids aged between 4 and 18 years, with a full range of activities and locations. Challenge volunteers play a large part in helping these camps run, as well as every other event Challenge holds. One of these camps, the annual Trevor Barker Surf Camp is held in December in Lorne. Over the 30 years Challenge has been operating, they have grown from small beginnings to become well known and respected as a non-profit organisation providing children living with cancer and their families an opportunity to interact with others in similar circumstances. “Unlike research organisations seeking future cures or hospitals and medical centres providing medical treatment and ancillary services, Challenge focuses on the immediate everyday, non-medical needs of members, namely the children, who are our primary focus, and their families,” David Rogers added. If you or someone you know has a child living with cancer and would like to become a Challenge member or are interested in becoming a Challenge volunteer, contact us on (03) 9329 8474. To donate to the organisation or for more information, visit www.challenge.org.au
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