Broken Hill locals, Cheryl and Rob have both had their own individual cancer experiences – Cheryl with myeloma and Rob with prostate cancer – which have meant travelling to Adelaide for cancer treatment and staying at Cancer Council SA’s supported accommodation.
They were blown away when the Broken Hill community came together to shave their heads and raise over $11,000 for Cancer Council SA’s new, integrated cancer building in their honour.
When Cheryl started to feel fatigued, her and her doctors all thought it was just the after effects of COVID-19. But when she didn’t get any better, she was flown from her home in Broken Hill to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where she learned that it wasn’t just COVID – she has myeloma.
“It was all a big shock. When you’re told it’s terminal but it can be treated, you’ve got to get your mind around that which was very hard to start with. But once I accepted it, I thought well I’ve got to fight this so that’s what we did,” Cheryl says.
Rob followed right behind her on the next flight and checked in to the closest hotel to the hospital. When they learnt that Cheryl was going to be staying in hospital for treatment, a social worker told him about Cancer Council SA’s Lodge accommodation.
Rob stayed at the Lodge for two weeks while Cheryl was in hospital, before Cheryl joined him for another two weeks while she continued to receive treatment.
“The Lodges are fantastic and the people that work in them are fantastic. You’ve only got to go to the desk and ask for help with something and they’ll do it for you,” Rob says.
“The Transport to Treatment buses and the volunteers that drive the buses are great, because if you had to catch a cab back and forth to the hospital every day, it just wouldn’t be possible.”
After four weeks in Adelaide, they were heading home to Broken Hill. Unfortunately, it was not long after getting home that they received a call from Rob’s doctor who told them that Rob’s prostate cancer was back. Rob was initially diagnosed with prostate cancer 13 years ago, and this is the second time it had come back.
“We had to get in the car and drive back down for his PET scan. His treatment was five weeks of radiation, so in November we had another five weeks at Greenhill Lodge and without that service, we couldn’t do it. You couldn’t come down here and pay five weeks accommodation. This makes it so easy for country people,” Cheryl says.
Before heading to Adelaide for Rob’s treatment, Cheryl received a visit from her 11-year-old neighbour who told her he wanted to shave his hair to raise money for Cheryl and Rob to go out for tea one night while they were in Adelaide.
“It brought me to tears, to think an 11-year-old neighbour thought of us that much. He rings all the time, to find out how we’re going. He’s a gorgeous kid,” Cheryl says.
From that idea grew an incredible display of community spirit, with nine teenagers agreeing to shave off their mullets at a fundraising event at the local sports club.
“On the day it just blew me away to see what they did. I mean these mullets meant so much to these boys. One boy was getting his shaved off and he was saying, ‘it’s taken me three years to grow this mullet’,” Cheryl says.
This incredible show of support inspired Cheryl to shave her head as well, with her granddaughter there to cheer her on.
The Do It For Cancer fundraiser raised $23,000 with half going towards Cancer Council SA’s new, integrated cancer building and the other half going to Broken Hill Oncology. They also used part of the money to buy a beautiful painting, which is now hanging in the kid’s activity room of our new building.
“Places like this wouldn’t get on without fundraising and I wanted to see the funds go to the Lodge where Broken Hill people and country people receive the most support,” Cheryl says.
“When you’re sick you know this is the best place to be, but now I’m well all I want to do is get home because five weeks is a long time away from family, grandchildren and my sons. So, it’s time to go home but it’s places like this just make it so so easy. Just so helpful.”
How can you shave your hair and Do It For Cancer?
Shaving your hair (or mullet), like the Broken Hill community did, is a powerful way to raise awareness. But if you’re not ready to go the whole way, you can also get a new ‘do’, dye your hair, wax your legs or chop off your ponytail.
Learn more about how you can fundraise and Do It For Cancer.