The Liberal Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell has continued her push for the establishment of radiotherapy services at Goulburn Valley Health by recounting in Parliament the cancer story of a Mooroopna mother of three.
In an adjournment debate to Health Minister Jill Hennessey, Ms Lovell continued her campaign for the life-saving treatment to be made available locally by detailing the journey of Mooroopna’s Kirstie Bulger, a mother of three who is battling breast and ovarian cancer.
“I applaud Kirstie’s bravery in allowing her story to be told because in facing continued radiotherapy treatment in the future, she knows the importance of accessing these services at her local hospital,” Ms Lovell said.
Ms Lovell said that Kirstie’s dramatic recall of her experiences when travelling for radiotherapy treatment showed the physical, emotional and financial toll such requirements have on Goulburn Valley cancer patients.
“Over a two year period, 614 residents from the GV Health catchment area were forced to travel away from the comforts of family and friends, at a considerable financial and emotional cost, because GV Health cannot provide the life-saving radiotherapy services they need,” Ms Lovell said.
Ms Lovell said Kirstie’s courage in telling her story in order to improve the lives of others was an inspiration and highlighted the need for the Andrews Labor Government to listen to local patients and provide the treatment services they need.
“Kirstie Bulger is in the fight of her life yet she wants to do everything possible to help make other people’s lives easier and I thank her for sharing her journey with us,” Ms Lovell said.
“I challenge the Health Minister to listen to Kirstie’s story and establish and fund appropriate radiotherapy services at Goulburn Valley Health.”
Kirstie Bulger was diagnosed with breast cancer on her 40th birthday. This has now progressed to stage 4 breast cancer and she was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Kirstie is currently receiving two treatments of chemotherapy a week at Goulburn Valley Health, with radiotherapy treatment also on the horizon.
When Kirstie was originally diagnosed, it was determined radiotherapy was the most appropriate form of treatment for her cancer. But this decision caused Kirstie even more angst on top of her diagnosis. Kirstie knew that she could not get radiotherapy treatment in Shepparton and knew she would have to travel away from home to receive the life-saving treatment.
Kirstie wondered how this was going to be possible, being a single mum of three kids with no family support in Victoria and she knew taking her kids out of school for long periods was not an option. She questioned how she was going to manage the logistics as well as the emotional burden of being away from her loving children for so long. But Kirstie didn’t really have a choice. If she wanted to fight the insidious disease with radiotherapy treatment, she knew she had to leave her home and her boys behind.
Kirstie’s first course of radiotherapy was administered in Melbourne, where she received daily treatment for seven weeks. She would come home each Friday night to spend the weekend with her family before making the drive back to Melbourne on Sunday night. It cost Kirstie $900 a week in accommodation alone throughout her treatment period in Melbourne but it was the emotional cost of being away that took an even greater toll, not just on her family but also on the families of her mother and sisters who helped while she was away. Kirstie later had another four week course of radiotherapy treatment in Albury and again faced the financial and emotional burden of having to travel for lifesaving treatment with determination and grace.
Kirstie applauds the doctors at GV Health oncology, where she receives wonderful treatment but wants to know why Goulburn Valley patients like her face the additional burden of needing to travel for radiotherapy. She says cancer diagnosis alone is such an emotional rollercoaster without the further angst of leaving the loving support and comfort that home provides. Kirstie hopes that by telling her story the Government will realise the need for radiotherapy at GV Health.