Over the past 14 years, Andy Stokes has been using his personal experience to help fellow South Australians facing a brain cancer diagnosis through his role as a Cancer Council SA Cancer Connect volunteer and cancer support group organiser.
Having cared for his wife, Rosel, since her sudden brain cancer diagnosis in 2006, Andy has been passionate about supporting others through the ups and downs faced by those living with a brain cancer diagnosis.
His work and involvement in cancer support groups all started while at one of his wife’s radiotherapy appointments.
“In the radiotherapy waiting room, I saw a poster advertising an information session with both our Neurosurgeon and Radio-oncologist as guest speakers. Rosel wasn’t well enough to go, so I went alone,” he says.
“Upon going, I discovered that the organisers were hoping to form a support group as nothing existed here for brain cancer patients, and so I went to the follow up meetings and helped to form the committee for the support group we called the Adult Brain Cancer Support Association.
“During the group’s first year, the Cancer Council SA Cancer Connect Coordinator sat in with us on the Adult Brain Cancer Support Association meetings, giving fantastic guidance, which has allowed us to continue ever since, supporting those diagnosed with brain cancer, their family, carers and friends.
“We meet monthly for coffee mornings where brain cancer patients and their carers chat about anything in a friendly and safe environment, to people who understand the types of issues that they are experiencing.
“I have had a few Cancer Connect referrals to talk with fellow carers, and I know there are some barriers there. But I would encourage people to reach out and connect. To talk, to learn, to be open to help and support. I know it can make a world of difference. I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it.
“For me, the positives I have gained from my experience with support groups and as a Cancer Council volunteer with Cancer Connect are: gaining the confidence to talk with others, feeling good about helping others, valuing health as well as being grateful for and appreciating simple and small things every day.
“Simply put, for me, it is a great place for information sharing and for recovery and I believe the group dynamics and mutual encouragement are an aid to physical, mental and emotional recovery.”
Cancer Council SA has a number of support services available and can help connect you to other groups, cancer information and resources suitable to you, your needs and your cancer experience. To find out more about cancer support groups in South Australia, Cancer Connect and speaking to someone who has had cancer, click here or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 information and support service Monday to Friday, 9.00 am – 5.00 pm to speak with an experienced cancer nurse.