Volunteers are improving breast cancer recovery services in Australia
I am so excited, proud and have an increasing sense of relief about breast cancer recovery services in Australia, because people after breast cancer are happy to support grass roots educational programs for health professionals.
Why am I excited?
Oncology rehab services have been really slow to take off in Australia: most therapists are not trained for it and Australian public hospitals have not invested in after cancer care.
However, this year and the next, I know that more people will receive physical rehab services in Darwin, Noosa, Sydney, Bunbury and Perth. This is because a total of forty therapists upskilled at the new workshop I have been working on this year.
They learned assessments and treatments designed specifically to address the hidden side-effects: tight mastectomy scars, cording, hard seromas and shoulder pain and more.
The volunteer sessions have become one of the favourite parts about the workshop. Local women with pain and movement problems volunteer to attend the practice sessions over one or both days. This means that the therapists get supervised practice with their new skills and they get to see the carry-over changes from one day to the next.
The volunteer sessions allows the therapists to get some practice, see the results and then get excited enough to move quickly into integrating these new services into their own clinic. I've had some trainees report positive experiences with patients the very next week after completing the workshop.
For the workshop volunteers we attracted, their common experience was that no one had spoken to them about rehab for breast and chest scars before. Having a therapist work on their scars and then being able to reach easier and reach higher, was a real eye opener for them. This led women to ask " I have learned so much (about my body), how come I wasn't told about this treatment before?"
Darwin leads the way for amazing volunteers and my excitment level!
Support from local and remote volunteers in Darwin was at a level that I don't see, living in a city. We had three ladies from a very remote town decide to make it a girls long weekend away. They jumped in the 4WD and traveled 7 hours to Darwin, just so they could help other breast cancer survivors, by supporting the therapist's skill development at the workshop. The bonus was two of the ladies had fabulous changes in their arm movement and their pain.
The local breast cancer support group in Darwin considered the benefits of health professional training for their members and have decided to sponsor a Level 2 workshop in (February) 2020. This news is very exciting for Northern Territory therapists.
Therapists who would like to travel to Darwin for training can start planning now. There will be a Level 1 and Level 2, both two-day workshops over an 8 day period, leaving you heaps of time to visit and experience the amazing outback.
For volunteers, I will put the call out when the date is set. You might like to visit the Top End for a holiday and some rehab sessions
I am proud.
As an international breast cancer rehab advocate and workshop developer and trainer, I am really excited for the future of our care for people after breast cancer in Australia.
Seeing therapists get a fire in their belly about the quick and important impact of rehab for this group of people, is really special. It will be really hard for the therapists not to take action now after seeing what is possible to achieve in a rehab session.
I am also proud of the women who have volunteered. They volunteered for a one hour session without much knowledge about what they were getting themselves in for – other that the hope that they might make another person’s life better. This level of support for others is so inspiring.
I am proud that every volunteer so far felt a) they did not find it awkward or uncomfortable having 3-4 therapists working together with them and b) they were “happy to refer others” to this workshop experience.
I am relieved
For three decades I have been reading Australian + international research describing the high rate of poor quality of life experience reported by breast cancer survivors. And then read the summary sections which commonly asked for more greater understanding of impairments so as to bring about positive changes for breast cancer survivors.
Over the last few years I have seen more therapists attending breast cancer rehab workshops across Australia. This means there is greater interest in solutions. This is the important beginning of more conversations and greater awareness among our communities who can care for breast cancer survivors better.
If you have read this far, you'll know the side effects are many, varied, complex and can be severe. Spoiler alert! We don't have all the answers, but I am relieved that more minds are now working on recovery solutions and services.
Next Workshop dates:
Sydney Nov 16+ 17 2019
Darwin (Feb) 2020
Hobart May 2020 (if abstract is approved by ALA)
Connect with Denise to:
Volunteer at a workshop in Australia
Connect your local health professional with this page link
Help arrange a workshop in your community
Book your personalized rehab service either at my rooms or video conference.