When you host a Cancer Council’s Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea in May or June, you can have an official Cancer Council Ambassador, like Tony, come along to share their cancer experience and educate your friends, family or workmates about how Cancer Council SA supports people impacted by cancer.
When Tony was diagnosed with stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer, it came as a complete shock. He didn’t drink or smoke but as an Australian of southern Chinese descent, he carries a genetic predisposition. This cancer can also be triggered by the Epstein Barr Virus—what we call glandular fever—and as a deputy principal in a school with 1,600 kids, he was exposed.
His treatment was a year of intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and a transnasal surgical procedure to take out a lesion.
For the past decade, Tony has been volunteering for Cancer Council SA as an Ambassador. He says he learned so much about cancer when he was sick, and he wants to give back by sharing what he’s learned.
“I want to give people hope. It used to be that cancer was a death sentence, but now, we can educate them about the ins and outs of cancer, and we can also give them practical tips for how to support someone they know who has cancer.”
As an Ambassador, Tony says he doesn’t know how much of a difference he makes until he gets to an event. All he does is share his story and talk from the heart.
“Last year I went to a nursing home and most of the Morning Tea guests were in their 80s and 90s. I didn’t give a speech, I just went around and spent time having chats to people. The most touching moment happened when I was about to leave. This woman who was using a wheelchair came up to me and said to me, ‘My daughter died of ovarian cancer last year. I’m so sad’.
“The manager told me this woman was in the nursing home when her daughter was dying, and she couldn’t be with her and she just bottled up all her feelings. She just needed someone to tell.
“I get a lot of questions about what cancer’s really like. In my experience, people didn’t know what to say or do when someone they know is diagnosed with cancer.
“People at Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea events are keen to hear stories, keen to hear the work Cancer Council SA does and where the fundraising money goes. Sometimes they ask how much of what they make from the Morning Tea goes to me and I say ‘zilch – I do it for the love’.”
Hosting a Cancer Council’s Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea doesn’t have to just happen on the official day, it can be done any time throughout May or June. Your Biggest Morning Tea could be at home with friends or family, a simple morning tea in the office with workmates, a gathering in the local community or at school.
There’s still time to host your Biggest Morning Tea and organise a speaker, like Tony, to share their cancer experience with your group. Register to host an Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea at biggestmorningtea.com.au.