“I’ve been lucky enough to receive some extra support during my treatment and it helps so much during a really stressful time. The generosity that exudes from so many sources at Lifehouse is not lost on me. I thoroughly appreciate the support and people that surround me. Thank you.”
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse patient and recipient of support
The Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund will be used to assist patients in the following areas of treatment and care:
Following are some examples of how the Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund has already been used for the benefit of our patients.
One such recent case is a 69-year-old woman who has a rare type of sarcoma called chordoma. It grows along the spine and extends into the surrounding bone and soft tissue. There are no funded systemic treatments for this cancer, and the patient has exhausted all available clinical trial options. Her medical oncologist prescribed imatinib, a type of cancer growth blocker called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. The drug blocks the proteins that cancer cells use to message each other. It is hoped the drug will slow the growth of the chordoma.
The cost of the drug is $800 per month for at least six months of treatment. The patient has limited resources and would not have been able to afford the costs of the treatment. The fund has been used to ensure she receives the treatment she needs to extend survival and improve her quality of life.
We would like to share a story with you about another one of our patients who directly benefited from your support. Emma* touched the lives of every person who was involved in her care. Through a terrible diagnosis and unimaginable grief, she remained kind, compassionate and positive, and also hopeful for her daughter whom she had just delivered into the world.
Emma came to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in September 2018. She was 29 years old, a trainee chef and pregnant with her first child. Her husband shared her love of the culinary world and worked as a pastry chef. They had emigrated to Australia in 2017 from overseas. They had no family here and had only just begun to build their life in Sydney.
During her pregnancy, Emma experienced excruciating abdominal pain. She was admitted to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse medical oncologist, Professor Lisa Horvath, was called to see her. Professor Horvath suspected cancer immediately.
A scan revealed that Emma had advanced colorectal cancer.
“I had no idea. No idea at all,” Emma said. “My whole world shattered when they told me I had cancer. Mostly because I am still young.”
Two days after the diagnosis, when Emma was just 32 weeks, she was induced and gave birth to a baby girl, Natalia. This enabled the doctors to see the extent of the cancer. It was in stage 4. The cancer that had started in her bowel had spread to sites throughout her body.
Despite the diagnosis, Emma said, “I felt really happy because my baby was healthy.”
Emma was transferred to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. We could provide some treatment that would ease her symptoms and give her some time with her baby and husband, but there was no treatment that could cure her cancer. Emma and her husband had limited financial resources.
Selma’s* oncologist has recommended a course of targeted therapy to shrink her tumour in preparation for surgery.
One of the drugs in Selma’s treatment plan is not subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme but will increase her likelihood of responding positively to treatment by about 15%.
To access this drug, Selma must pay a fee of several thousand dollars for the initial dose. This cost presents a significant challenge for Selma, who is a full-time carer for an elderly family member and has struggled with poor mental health throughout her treatment.
The support of the Shae Gibson Fund has enabled Selma to receive this vital drug, putting her in the best possible position for a successful surgery and rapid recovery in future.
The Shae Gibson Fund is currently supporting Jodie* as she undergoes regular immunotherapy treatments for stage IV skin cancer.
In her 50s, Jodie lives alone and receives a disability support pension. Her oncologist has arranged for Jodie to undergo immunotherapy free of charge through a compassionate access scheme, but she is unable to afford the dispensing fee associated with each dose.
With the support of the Shae Gibson Fund, Jodie has received the full course of treatment, which is expected to extend over two years, without the financial stress she would otherwise have experienced.
Tara (Chris O’Brien Lifehouse patient and recipient of hardship fund support)
“I’ve been lucky enough to receive some extra support during my treatment and it helps so much during a really stressful time.
The generosity that exudes from so many sources at Lifehouse is not lost on me. I thoroughly appreciate the support and people that surround me.
The Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund recently helped to purchase basic toiletries and comfort items for a woman who was unexpectedly hospitalised after a routine check-up.
The patient had travelled from outside of Sydney for her appointment and expected to return the same day. She didn’t have pyjamas, toiletries or personal items with her, and couldn’t afford to purchase them anew.
“Thankfully,” says Patient Liaison Lorainne Brecard, “we were able to access the Shae Gibson Fund to buy those small items to make her stay much more comfortable.”
“In my role, I get to see first-hand the difference that the Shae Gibson Fund makes to patients like this, and it’s truly immense. I can’t thank you enough.”
As you know, turning a woman away from the care and treatment she needs because of her financial circumstances is unthinkable. Yet providing equitable access is challenging simply because our resources are finite.
The Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund eases the financial burden faced by our most vulnerable patients and ensures that our patients can access the very best care so they have a better chance of surviving their cancer. For this incredible gift, we cannot thank you enough.
One area in which the Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund continues to have a significant impact is in subsidising the costs of medicines for women undergoing different types of drug therapy.
As you know, some cancer medicines are not subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and can carry significant out-of-pocket costs for every dose. Although the cost of some of these drugs can be reduced through compassionate access schemes, many still require a dispensing fee or other charge.
Inability to afford essential medicines can cause significant distress to patients and can affect their family members and carers.
Your support ensures that the substantial cost of drug therapies will never prevent a patient from receiving the best treatment for their cancer type, when they need it.
Following are just some of the patients who have been assisted in this way by your support.
Andrea* has a rare type of cancer that develops in the connective tissue surrounding the abdominal organs.
Her oncologist has prescribed doxorubicin, a chemotherapy drug that blocks a certain enzyme which cancer cells need in order to grow.
Doxorubicin is not listed on the PBS for the type of cancer which Andrea has, and will cost several thousand dollars for a full treatment course. This is not uncommon for rare cancers like Andrea’s, which are less likely to be covered by the government subsidy scheme.
Andrea is not able to afford the out-of-pocket cost, but thanks to the Shae Gibson Fund she is able to receive this life-saving treatment at a critical time. Andrea is extremely grateful for your generosity, which has eased this significant financial burden.
In her 70s, Fabrizia* was diagnosed simultaneously with breast cancer and a rare form of lung cancer.
For a number of years, Fabrizia’s treating team managed the inoperable breast cancer with hormone therapy, but the tumour has recently begun to spread once more. Fabrizia requires another type of hormone therapy that represents the next line of treatment for her cancer.
Unlike the therapy that Fabrizia has been receiving until now, this new drug is not listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. A full treatment course requires several doses, each costing hundreds of dollars.
This cost would represent a significant financial challenge for Fabrizia, who is retired and lives with family. Through the generosity of the Shae Gibson Fund, however, Fabrizia is able to receive this treatment at no cost.
By relieving the financial burden associated with this medicine, the Shae Gibson Fund is providing hope not only to Fabrizia, but to her family, who have rallied around her to support her through her treatment.
Some cancers grow in response to particular hormones. These are known as hormone-dependent cancers and include some types of breast and uterine cancers.
Hormone therapy uses synthetic hormones to block the action of the body’s natural hormones, which slows the growth of these hormone-dependent tumours.
What type and for how long a patient receives hormone therapy varies according to cancer type, but some patients may need to continue taking these medicines for many years. For these patients, the mounting cost of treatment can be significant.
The Shae Gibson Fund recently assisted Heather*, a young woman diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer.
Heather is unable to work and receives a disability support pension. Her cancer diagnosis presents a significant financial challenge.
Heather’s oncologist has recommended drug therapy to shrink her tumour before she undergoes surgery. This will include chemotherapy and targeted therapy, a type of drug therapy which targets cancer cells and leaves healthy cells unaffected.
This combined approach is now the international standard for treating HER2-positive breast cancer. However, one of the two drugs which Heather needs for her targeted therapy is not subsidised under the PBS. This drug will increase Heather’s chances of responding positively to her treatment by about 15%.
Heather’s oncologist has been able to obtain this drug through a special access scheme, but Heather must pay out-of-pocket for the first dose, a cost of several thousand dollars. Heather knew that she would not be able to afford this.
Thankfully, her oncologist was able to reassure Heather that support was available. Heather has been able to access this vital drug with the assistance of the Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund. She is incredibly grateful for your generosity, which offers her hope for a positive outcome.
The Shae Fund has provided $5000 towards purchase of new wigs which enables every patient to access this valuable service, regardless of financial circumstances. The Wig Library is a service offered through the Living Room at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
The Wig Library supports hundreds of people each year through one of the most feared and distressing side-effects of cancer treatment—chemotherapy-induced hair loss.
Hair loss is a common and traumatic side effect of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. It has profound psychological and psychosocial consequences, often resulting in anxiety, depression, social isolation and loss of identity. Hair loss is a public and visible sign of cancer that significantly alters a patient’s perception of themselves.
Wearing a wig can greatly improve a patient’s psychological wellbeing, provide privacy and offer a sense of normalcy and control over their appearance. However, high-quality wigs are cost-prohibitive for many patients.
Through the generosity of supporters like you, we are able to offer the Wig Library service free of charge. Your thoughtful gift means that the benefits of wigs are available to all patients, regardless of their financial circumstances.
The service is run by volunteers who are trained to provide wig fittings and scarf styling advice. Patients may choose from hundreds of high-quality wigs and scarves, as well as wig care accessories such as shampoo, conditioner, and wig caps.
This support will help to purchase a variety of new, well-made wigs to suit a range of hair colours and preferences. It will also provide patients with the basic supplies needed to keep their wig in excellent condition.
By providing the option of a wig for patients experiencing chemotherapy-related hair loss, you are giving a gift that can offer a sense of control, alleviate distress, improve self-esteem and give patients the confidence to face their cancer and treatment.
Patients can change their wig at any time during treatment and return it when their hair has sufficiently grown back.
“Patients come to the wig library at a very overwhelming time in their treatment, so it’s often a place where they can be really vulnerable.
“The difference you can make in a patient’s day by just being there, listening to them, and giving them that extra bit of care is truly heart-warming.”
Pamela’s appointment at the wig library came at just the right time.
On her second round of chemotherapy for a tumour in her leg, Pamela was beginning to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of losing her hair.
She and her husband were due to head home to Orange, but volunteer manager Karen Heath was able to fit in a special appointment before they left.
“The Living Room has a delightful encouraging atmosphere, and the staff were most considerate at a time that was very distressing for me,” she says.
They scrolled through a gallery of styles to find one that matched Pamela’s natural hair, then Karen picked out a few options for her to try.
“After two happy trials, bingo, a perfect match for my normal hair,” says Pamela.
“Karen was pleased for me and shared helpful tips with my husband and I about caring for my new wig.”
To top off the experience, as they were leaving, Pamela and her husband were met by the Lifehouse choir, which gathers weekly in the ground level foyer.
“We left with the new wig to drive home singing What a Wonderful World,” says Pamela.
“I feel greatly blessed to have had this experience in the wig library. It’s made such a difference, and right when I needed it most.”
To all the donors and supporters of the Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund, thank you for your support and generosity, which has made a positive and meaningful impact in the lives of many women living with cancer and their families.
The out-of-pocket costs of cancer care can be significant, compounded by other factors like the loss of income which occurs when a person is no longer able to work due to cancer treatment. The Shae Gibson Women’s Cancer Support Fund ensures that financial stress will never prevent a person from receiving the very best care for their illness.
We look forward to sharing more stories of essential treatment made possible by your support, as well as those of the women who find comfort and confidence through the Wig Library.
Thank you once again for your incredible kindness, which makes such a difference to women with cancer and their loved ones.
Get to know about our launch
Subscribe to our newsletter and we will send you a notification about the launch of our brand new site.