Cancer strikes close to home as Gladstone people do battle

IT is something that no one should ever have to go through, but sadly, being diagnosed with cancer or knowing someone who has, is an experience all too common.

This week, to mark World Cancer Day on Tuesday, The Observer will look at the stories of local people who have been touched by cancer in some way.

These remarkable people describe the fear and hopelessness that comes with diagnosis, but also the positivity and strength with which they face their treatment and recovery.

For people in a regional area like Gladstone, cancer treatment involves constant travel and being away from loved ones at a time when you need the support of friends and family.

The nearest radiation treatment centres for cancer patients in Central Queensland are Brisbane and Townsville, with two private treatment centres in Nambour and Toowoomba.

While receiving treatment in these centres, patients and families have access to liaison nurses, social workers and psychologists.

However, when back in Gladstone, patients and their families feel the absence of these support networks which help with the emotional stress that affects one-third of all cancer patients.

One point raised by all of the cancer sufferers was the need to have a support group in Gladstone to help combat the isolation that comes with living in a regional area.

It is hoped that awareness and a strong network among cancer sufferers will improve the quality of life for those living with cancer and their families.

Every year in Central Queensland more than 1000 new cancer cases are diagnosed and 411 people lose their battle with the disease.

BRAVE MAX: Bou McKay with her son Max Hoiberg.
BRAVE MAX: Bou McKay with her son Max Hoiberg. Contributed

Parents juggle work and time in Brisbane with son

THERE is still a long road ahead for nine-year-old Max Hoiberg, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on August 31.

Now five weeks into his treatment, Max has three-and-a-half months to go before he can return home to Boyne Island.

His mother, Bou McKay, and her partner Karl alternate between staying with Max in Brisbane and working full-time in Gladstone.

"It's difficult to leave Max here (in Brisbane) when I have to work, and it's hard to leave home to come to Brisbane being newly married and having other kids at home," she said

Fundraising efforts have given the Hoibergs a helping hand including events at Seventeen Seventy and Dysart, where the family used to live. A Facebook group was also set up to help the family with treatment and travel costs.

While in Brisbane, a network of families in similar circumstances also keeps their family positive.

But Ms McKay said she wished this support was more accessible when they returned to Gladstone.

Now applying to the Leukaemia Foundation for a group to be established in Gladstone, Mrs McKay and others dealing with the illness are holding an initial meeting this Wednesday to get the group off the ground.

She said the group would help raise awareness and offer support through regular meetings where people could swap stories and advice.

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