Afterburn: the 2020 bushfires and their impact on people affected by cancer

Thursday 19 March, 2020

 

A Cancer Council Holiday Break property burnt out in the 2020 fires (courtesy Martine Plowman)

We know the pattern: dried out bushland, a spark and then the firestorm. Stories appear in the news of people who have lost their livelihoods and homes, and some sadly their lives.

But what we don’t tend to know about are how fires of the sort we have seen this summer spread their tentacles into every corner of a community, entangling all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.

For people affected by cancer there can be the immediate impact of having access to treatment or support services disrupted or cut off. There is the emotional impact of dealing with additional shock, disbelief or anger at what has happened and the financial impact of having to rebuild or manage without income.

Cancer Council Victoria offers help for people in just these situations, and for all Victorians affected by cancer. We have information about travel and accommodation subsidies for people in rural areas who have to travel considerable distances for treatment, particularly if your trip is extended due to bushfire-closed roads.

Free legal and financial planning services are available to eligible patients to help with costs while you get back on your feet (call us or ask your doctor for a referral).

Above all, our experienced cancer nurses are here to listen and to help you with your cancer concerns; just call 13 11 20 for information and support.

Generous family determined to continue support

Martine and Daniel Plowman have been caught up in the Victorian bushfires, losing the holiday accommodation they so generously donated to our Holiday Break Program.

The Holiday Break Program uses donated accommodation, to provide a break from two to four nights for people in financial hardship who are having treatment or who have recently completed their treatment. There are some 75 holiday break locations around Victoria and last year around 100 families had a short holiday through the program.

The properties are located all around the state and give people the chance to stroll along a beach, relax by a river or get up close to a cow, sheep or horse on a working farm.

The remains of a holiday cottage on the Plowmans’ farm

Getting a taste of farm life certainly used to be possible at Martine and Daniel’s beef and sheep farm but the bushfires destroyed their donated holiday accommodation (although thankfully not the main home).

“Our once pretty farm with rolling green hills is black, dreary and pretty depressing at the moment so I probably wouldn’t recommend it for cheering anyone up,” said Martine.

Curious cattle on the “once pretty farm” of Martine and Daniel Plowman now rely on donated feed.

Several other donors, not even necessarily close to the burnt-out areas, are simply struggling to stay afloat financially. Much as they would like to continue to provide free places for people affected by cancer, they are simply not able to do so.

The state and federal governments have launched campaigns to support both regions affected by bushfires and the tourism industry. They will be a vital part of rebuilding communities. Maintaining and supporting people affected by cancer continues to be Cancer Council’s mission.

It is a measure of the generosity of Cancer Council donors that the Plowmans are willing to continue to donate a second cottage for use in our Holiday Break program, once the power has been restored.

They are keen to continue to support the program, as they know from firsthand experience how valuable a break away from the cancer treadmill can be, having had the chance to share a holiday with Daniel’s father before he passed away.

“Not everyone is in a position to make those memories, and we know how valuable it is,” Martine shared.

Holiday Break Program

Our Holiday Break Program provides people affected by cancer with a one-off short getaway, at no cost. For information about this program, or if you'd like to donate time at your holiday property, please contact us - we'd love to hear from you.

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