The Leukaemia Foundation as important as ever after 20 years


Karlie Brady


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Members of the Mossman Distric Branch of the Leukemia Foundation. Image: Karlie Brady.

 The Mossman District Branch of the Leukaemia Foundation celebrated their 20th birthday with a special visit from Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch.

Members of the branch and Mr Petch gathered at High Falls Farm on Saturday to mark the milestone.

The local Leukaemia Foundation branch supports and raises funds for Douglas Shire families living with blood cancer and Mr Petch said the team has worked tirelessly for their community.

“This branch has worked hard to help people in the local community get access to treatments and when you live in a regional community it's not always easy to get access to the best treatment,” he said.

“People that have contracted blood cancers in the local community often can't be treated here and have to travel not just to Cairns or Townsville but also to Brisbane for treatment and that's quite a traumatic experience, so the branch is there for support.”

Mossman District Branch President Deborah Kachel said after 20 years the organisation is as important as it has ever been with rates of blood cancer diagnoses on the increase.

“We still need to support local people and the money we raise goes towards providing things like transport and accommodation and just general support for patients from up here,” she said.

Ms Kachel added the branch can raise anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000 or more per year through fundraisers such as the Airing of the Quilts, Lavender and Lace, and Melbourne Cup raffles.

“We really want to thank the community for their support, we've raised around $800,000 over the 20 years and that doesn't include World's Greatest Shave, so really this community has contributed over a million dollars in that time,” Ms Kachel said.

Mr Petch added branches like the Mossman District are the backbone of the organisation.

“When you think back to the founding of the Leukaemia Foundation over 40 years ago, the whole point of it was to improve access to treatment for regional patients,” Mr Petch said.

Mr Petch’s visit follows the Leukaemia Foundation recent release of a first-of-its-kind report showing the full size, scale and impact of blood cancer in Australia.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report shows that blood cancer has been underreported and is now more prevalent than ever.

The report particularly shows the challenges faced by people with blood cancer in regional areas like the Far North compared to their metro counterparts.

Due to the urgency of the report's findings, the Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP has announced the development of a national Blood Cancer Taskforce and charged the Leukaemia Foundation with delivering Australia’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer.

Mr Petch said the report clearly shows the experience of blood cancer patients in regional areas can be vastly different to that of patients living in metro areas, from diagnosis through treatment.

“If you live in a regional area and you don't get access to the best treatment then often your survivability is not as great as people in metro areas and that is not acceptable.

“If we can improve consistency of access to treatments, we can improve survivability by 13 per cent which is a big number across the country equating to something like 22,000 people by 2032.

“The access issues that we're talking about are also the same access issues for every disease group, so if we can have a significant impact in improving equity of access that will flow through to other cancers and other diseases too,” Mr Petch said.

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