This week, a senate select committee into funding for research into low survival cancers will hear from members of the public and prominent cancer organisations at a series of public hearings around the country. The hearings will look at why survival rates for some of the worst cancers in Australia have not improved in over 30 years.
Geelong mother Penny Stanley beat breast cancer last year, thanks in part to the huge amounts of research that has been invested in that disease. Tragically, one year later, her beautiful five year old daughter Zoe was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, and the options available to Penny one year previously do not extend to her daughter. Penny hopes this Select Committee will change that for future families facing this diagnosis.
My beautiful daughter Zoe, who recently turned five, has been diagnosed with a rare brain tumour and is now going through the fight of her little life.
In just three months my husband and I have had to make decisions that no parent should ever have to make and watch her go through radiotherapy (for the brain and the spine), MRI scans under general anaesthetic, two surgeries, and ensure she takes chemotherapy tablets every day.
Doctors have told us the treatment she is receiving may only prolong her short life as this horrible “giant cell glioblastoma multiforme” brain tumour takes hold of her.
I can't describe in words what we as parents feel every day, besides feeling worried, anxious, fearful and heartbroken.
The lack of funding from the Australian Government into these rare brain tumours, which children and adults are losing their life to, adds to our concern.
Did you know the leading cause of cancer death is brain cancer, and that it kills more children and people under 40 than any other cancer?
Despite all of this, brain cancer is underfunded, as it has the least amount of federal funding of all cancers. Yet brain cancer costs more per patient than any other cancer.
It all seems so unfair that while I, her mother, could be treated for breast cancer at 34 just last year, my little daughter Zoe, who has watched me get through my own battle against cancer, has been given almost no hope of becoming a happy little girl and growing up to do whatever she dreams of.
Listen: Carrie Bickmore on losing her husband to brain cancer and her fight for funding (post continues after audio...)
We are in Australia, a country that prides itself on being a leader in a wide range of research fields, yet in brain cancer treatments and therapies we have dropped the ball and are well behind the rest of the developed world. Even the United States is making positive progress in brain cancer research. Why can't Australia lead the way?
Australia has amazing state of the art hospitals such as The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and Peter Mac, along with research facilities and health professionals who are committed help research these brain tumours, but are desperate for funding from the Government so that they can fund clinical trials, research and treatments that will cure these rare brain tumours.
This would result in a win so our children would not suffer and be cured. This would also be a win for our economy and the bottom line. What is more important in this world than for our children to have a future?
Urgent funding is needed for brain cancer research, clinical trials and treatment, especially for paediatric brain tumours. As our family has found out first hand, these brain tumours are destroying the lives of precious little children.
I do hope that our brave little daughter Zoe, like many other children can one day grow up to talk about their survival of brain cancer. But in the meantime please at least help and at least give our children a chance at life by providing funding.
To show your support for brain cancer funding, click here and get involved in the senate conversation in your state.