Could you go through cancer treatment – alone, in a foreign country – without any support?
In March 2020, Minh left her husband and two children in Fiji to travel to Australia to receive treatment for her brain cancer through St George Hospital. The 49-year old had previously been diagnosed with lung cancer and unfortunately her tumours had spread to her brain.
Minh Chau was hopeful that her treatment would be over quickly so she could return home to her family and her important work for UNICEF.
At the same time, global concerns about the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 were growing. Nobody could predict the year that 2020 would become. Least of all Minh Chau and her family.
Everything changed so quickly. Australia closed its international and state borders, stranding thousands of people, both inside and outside of Australia.
All these months later, Minh Chau remains in Australia – living alone, in a foreign country – going through cancer treatment without her loved ones by her side.
When you need support, CanCare is there
CanCare navigator Sarah provides a lifeline of friendship and support for Minh Chau.
“Minh Chau’s situation is heartbreaking, distressing and uncertain. She has not seen her family since March. She keeps busy between her treatments and her work but it’s difficult to stay positive after all these months.”
However, Sarah knows Minh Chau prefers to focus on the positives.
“Minh Chau is extraordinary. We spend our time together laughing. Like everyone, she has her down days. But she is also very independent and positive. It’s a privilege to spend time with her.”
The two women catch up regularly to do something ‘fun’ – a visit to the beach, a road trip for donuts – whatever will take Min Chau’s mind off missing her family for a few hours.
While in Australia receiving treatment, Min Chau has also continued to work remotely for [Save the Children / UNICEF]. She has spent her entire career working to ensure that all children, especially those in developing countries, have better access to quality education and care.
Minh Chau’s is just one of many heartbreaking situations that we have been faced with in 2020.
So many people have been caught up in the global crisis surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Families, loved ones and friends separated by lockdowns, border closures and the need to keep our social distance.
During these sad and uncertain times, the friendship and support offered by CanCare’s network of volunteers has been more critical than ever before.
While the COVID-19 crisis has forced everyone to do things differently; the kindness, care and compassion of our volunteers and supporters has never wavered.
Two resilient women supporting each other
Despite their different ages and backgrounds, Sarah and Minh Chau have a lot in common. Resilience for a start.
Like Minh Chau, Sarah was busy working and enjoying life when an unexpected diagnosis two years ago threatened to change the course of her life. Originally from the UK, Sarah was in Australia visiting family when she found a large mass. She was 29 years old at the time.
“When I was going through treatment for lymphoma, I tried not to think about it too much. I just got on with it. However, it did make me realise how lucky I was to have a good support network and family around me,” she says.
“My doctors were amazing. I had a lot of people checking in on me. But it also got me thinking, ‘How would I feel if I were going through this alone?’ I was determined to find a way to help other people who didn’t have the same support as me.”
Sarah was only halfway through her treatment when she started looking around for ways to help. Her only condition was that she wanted to make it personal.
“I knew there would be lots of ways that I could make a small difference to a lot of people. But I wanted to find a more personal way to make a big difference – even if I was able to help just one or two people.”
Two years on, she’s doing far more than that as a CanCare navigator.
The ripple effect of kindness
For Sarah, being a CanCare navigator is extremely rewarding because she knows from her own experience that it’s the little things that mean the most.
“Even the smallest act of kindness has a habit of flowing from one person to another. With Minh Chau, I think that just knowing that I am here for her when her family can’t be makes a big difference.
“Every person’s experience with cancer is different and it’s important to respect that. I just try to be there for her as best I can.” she says.
Two years on from her own diagnosis and treatment, Sarah’s life is again busy and fulfilled. She divides her time between her International Business studies, working as a fitness trainer and administrator, and soaking up time her time in Australia.
“I love Australia! I love the sunshine and the people. I can even drive a tractor,” she laughs.
After growing up between the UK and Australia, Sarah is looking forward to what the future will bring in Australia. Between studying and working in Sydney, she even finds time to work on a friend’s farm for the harvest each year.
We are so grateful for the generosity of all our supporters and volunteers like Sarah.
Your kindness means so much to people undergoing treatment for many cancers.
While Minh Chau’s situation is heartbreaking, your support during these uncertain times is helping to ease the pain of being separated from her family.
We can’t all volunteer, but we can help in many other ways. Your gifts can help make a difference.