Kaye Fox (left) and Bev Walker, organisers of the Ararat Breast Cancer Support Group for 20 years.
The keys to a good support group are having a laugh and providing support, according to Bev Walker and Kaye Fox who ran the Ararat Breast Cancer Support Group for over 20 years.
For Bev and Kaye, running the support group in their home town came about by chance when the initial founder of the group wanted to hand it over. Both had had breast cancer and had found attending the group really rewarding and enjoyable. When the need to take the helm presented itself, they happily stepped up as co-organisers thus cementing a very important friendship.
With a starting group of five members, the attendance increased over the years to 20 at its peak.
“People would come along to monthly meetings held at the local Croquet Club where they would sign in, get the formalities out of the way and then over a ‘cuppa’ share how they were and get support from the women in the room.” said Kaye.
“What was shared in those meetings, stayed in those meetings.”
“We used to bring cakes along too but after a while it started to get competitive and people would bring too much and there’d be a lot of waste,” Bev added.
“We then just made it a cuppa and a dried biscuit and cheese at the meetings.”
As veteran bakers (both ladies bake a good sponge, ginger fluff and slice), Bev and Kaye soon used their skills for fundraising activities in support of breast cancer through morning teas for Pink Ribbon Day and Cancer Council’s Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. These annual events were well supported by the broader Ararat community requiring them on these occasions to “jump the fence” to the Bowls Club to accommodate everyone.
Ginger fluff sponge and other homemade delights were firm fundraising favourites. (image © BabyMac)
From private plus club donations and raffles over the years, the Ararat Breast Cancer Support Group has raised an impressive $60,000, which they used to support Cancer Council’s work and to buy, among other things, eight chemotherapy chairs for the local hospital.
It was the support in the room and the joy that people received from attending the groups that kept Bev and Kaye motivated to run the group for such a long time.
“People would look forward to coming and we wanted to keep it going for them,” said Bev. “The hardest thing was when we would lose a member to cancer, but we would support each other and make a donation to Cancer Council in their honour.”
With a focus on keeping the meetings informal and making them fun, with lots of laughs, the overwhelming feeling was positive amongst the group.
The power of peer support combined with Bev and Kaye’s natural style of guiding the women through the tougher times of cancer and the innate sense of community that is the backbone of regional towns has led to the overwhelming success of the group.
With the number of attendees declining, and Bev and Kaye having done their time, the decision was made to wind up the group at the end of 2019. There were no tears or regrets, but an overwhelming sense of enjoyment and satisfaction in what had been achieved over the 20+ years.
The ladies went out for a celebratory Christmas lunch and made a commitment to meet for regular morning teas to catch up. Next month they will meet again informally, at a café in town where they will chat over a cuppa and even a piece of sponge or slice for old times’ sake.
Attendees at the final lunch of the Ararat Breast Cancer Support Group.
While Kaye still volunteers at the oncology ward of the local hospital, playing Scrabble with the patients and getting the occasional seven-letter word, Bev has had to slow down this year.
Both loved the support they received and gave to others in the group and would wholeheartedly encourage everyone to join a relevant support group through Cancer Council. “Just go for it,” says Bev.
The latest update under the Victorian Government’s COVID ban on elective surgery from David Speakman, Chief Medical Officer at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Three years ago, Bianca was a normal 20-year-old. She was studying journalism, hitting the gym in her spare time and enjoying life with her friends and family. It all started when Bianca first felt a lump in her breast.
Exercise is the last thing most cancer patients want to do after chemotherapy. But for Ebony, a mum of two and a Walking Star, it helped her through her ordeal with breast cancer.