real life

How one widower used the death of his wife to dedicate the rest of his life to helping others.

Few events in life are as painful as the loss of a spouse – but one Brisbane widower has used the death of his wife to motivate him to dedicate his life to helping others cope with cancer.

Jessica McFarland lost her battle with bowel cancer last year aged 28. She had married her sweetheart Matthew McFarland less than a year earlier.

Thrown into the world of cancer, Matthew met another cancer warrior desperate to help others. Katie Bain, 26, from Uki, in northern NSW, was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2015.

Matthew and Jessica on their wedding day. Image supplied.

Matthew was looking to connect with other people who understood what he was going through. Katie, an event manager and Camp Quality volunteer, who had also married her sweetheart less than a year earlier, had found she was forced to slow down and prioritise her health following her diagnosis.

The pair have since used their combined experiences and knowledge to start the Better Together Foundation, a not-for-profit with one goal - to make the cancer journey easier for all cancer warriors over the age of 25.

The Foundation will work with existing charities to ensure that cancer warriors know what services are available and how to access them, as well as providing Special Moments for them and their families. A Special Moment may be as simple as a weekend at the beach, or as luxurious as a honeymoon on a tropical island - anything that gives cancer warriors crucial time away from the daily pressure of their disease.

Katie and Simon on their wedding day. Image supplied.

Matthew said it is not only having all the best information and treatment available that makes fighting cancer easier - it’s about having the right emotional support.

“Jess and I got married and went on our honeymoon after she had already started treatment,” Matthew said.

“Being able to get away from the stress of treatment, and the hospital visits and the constant reminder of the disease, just for a short while, meant we could really connect with each other.

“I’m grateful I have those memories with Jess and a big part of starting the Foundation is about making sure other people get to make memories with their loved ones too.”

The Better Together Foundation launch.

Katie said she had noticed the amount of charities focused on giving emotional and practical support to young cancer warriors and their families but said cancer warriors over the age of 25 were mostly given information-based support instead.

“When you’re first diagnosed you are hit with a whole heap of information, some of it is even conflicting, and it is so hard to think clearly, you are simply overloaded,” Katie said.

“We want to be the bridge that connects someone who is in that terrifying moment post-diagnosis and all the support that is out there waiting for them.”

The Better Together Foundation is looking to establish partnerships with hospitals and health organisations in the Brisbane and Gold Coast region in order to connect with newly diagnosed patients in need of support.

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