Sutherland Cancer Support Group closes because of insurance costs and a lack of new members

Continuing friendships: Members of the Sutherland Cancer Support Group at the group's farewell lunch on May 8.
Continuing friendships: Members of the Sutherland Cancer Support Group at the group's farewell lunch on May 8.

The Sutherland Cancer Support Group has been wound up, one month shy of its 25th anniversary.

The group has provided support for hundreds people with a cancer diagnosis and their carers over the years but insurance, rents and other ongoing legalities have finally caused it to close.

Its success in providing support for long-term survivors has also been a contributing factor to its demise.

“We have people here who are five and ten years along from their diagnosis,” said Deborah Harrison, who has been a long-term volunteer with the group.

“One of our members, Doug Parkes has been with us for 17 years.

“But we are not getting any new members. People are out there but they are not coming along to our meetings. They feel that because we are long-term survivors we can’t help with people are are just diagnosed or are going through treatment.”

The Sutherland Cancer Support Group held its farewell lunch last Tuesday, May 8 after holding its final meeting on April 16.

The group was started in June, 1993 by Les and Maureen Robinson after the death of their daughter to breast cancer.    

Its aim has been to provide emotional comfort and support and practical information to people facing the challenges presented by a diagnosis of cancer.

“In 1996 one of our members, Gregg Lennon, initiated a bike ride from Sydney to Melbourne.  

“Unfortunately Gregg passed away in August 1996 before he was able to do this ride.  With his many supporters and friends he raised over $20,000 which was put into a Trust.  

“This enabled us to help the St George Cancer Support Group by financing a  social worker for 12 months and the rest towards the newly formed Cancer Voices NSW.  

“We have been well patronised over the last 25 years and would like to thank the Sutherland Hospital for services of a social worker, Miranda Catholic Church and The Salvation Army Miranda for the use of premises and all who have assisted with our success.

“There have been strong friendships made over the years and the remaining members will be continuing with monthly coffee mornings.  

“It’s been like a family. Many have said it is a second family because they can come to the group and say things they can’t say to their own family.

“Its surprising the number of couples who have come to the group who have both had cancer,” she said.

“Some of them lose their partner but they carry on with the group. Friendships continue to growth because you have all been through the same thing.

“But it just wasn’t viable anymore. Liability insurance has just got too expensive. That is money that could be better spent elsewhere.

“So the group will carry on in an informal way and will meet as friends, but we can’t call ourselves a support group, because that means we need insurance, and we won’t have a social worker anymore to hand out information.

“It is good to see so many people a lot further down the track from their cancer diagnosis who are still going strong.”

The group will meet on the first Tuesday of the month, starting June 5 at Gymea Tradies at 10am.

If anyone with cancer related issues would like to join the informal group, they can contact Deborah Harrison on 0418 977719.