'Lucky one' to tell story at rally
EVEN after losing her nose to cancer, Linda McGill still considers herself one of the lucky ones.
The former marathon swimmer, who became the first Australian woman to swim the English Channel in 1965, will lend her voice to boosting radiation services at Tweed Hospital during a rally planned for the Tweed Heads Civic Centre on Friday.
Ms McGill, 63, will share her three-year ordeal with the audience of Rally for Radiation.
“I always considered myself one of the lucky ones,” she said.
“When I was diagnosed in 2005 the closest public hospital with radiation therapy was at Princess Alexander in Brisbane, about an hour away.
“I was blessed to have a good group of friends who took in turns driving me to Brisbane and back five times a week for almost three months.”
Radiation treatment would not have been possible without the help of her friends, Ms McGill said.
“One of the worst things about radiation treatment is the fatigue,” she said.
Ms McGill has documented her experience with skin cancer in a yet-to-be-published autobiography, Off With Her Nose.
“Imagine the older residents of Tweed who have to rely on public transport and feel terrible after the treatment. It shouldn't be like that,” she said.
“This service is desperately needed at Tweed Hospital so others don't have to go through what I did.
“Radiation treatment is a harrowing experience, but having it closer to home makes it that much easier to cope with.”
Miss McGill had her nose rebuilt several years after her radiation treatment.
The Rally for Radiation falls on Daffodil Day, the largest fundraiser of the year for the Cancer Council. The rally is being organised by member for Tweed Geoff Provest.
“We are organising a forum to inform the community about cancer and give a boost to the Tweeds campaign for much-needed radiation services,” Mr Provest said.
“This will be a long campaign.”
Mr Provest met Ms McGill when she worked at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club as a quality assurance manager. There are 3500 cancer sufferers in Tweed, Mr Provest said.
“I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases,” he said.
“We are lucky to have an extraordinarily well-qualified team of cancer specialists at the Tweed Hospital, but they and their patients are being hamstrung by the absence of radiation therapy.”
The closet radiation treatment available to Tweed residents is at private hospital John Flynn in Tugun.
The nearest public services are in Brisbane or Coffs Harbour.
“Radiation therapy is also due to start at Lismore Hospital in the next couple of years, but these are not viable options for Tweed patients,” Mr Provest said.
“Some are getting into debt to raise the $16,000 or so needed for private services at John Flynn, while an alarming number are forgoing treatment altogether.”
Representatives from the New South Wales and Queensland Cancer Councils, leading local oncologist Dr Ehtesham Abdi and other Tweed patients are scheduled to be at the Rally for Radiation.
Mr Provest has also extended an invitation to New South Wales health minister John Della Bosca.
The Tweed MP says the minister will be in the region on Friday.
“It would be great to have the state's health minister participate too, since he is in the region anyway,” Mr Provest said.
A spokesman from Mr Della Bosca's office said he was not aware of the rally but said the minister was planning to travel to the north coast soon.
“He will be making a number of announcements on improved health services for local residents.”Rally round The Rally for Radiation will be held at the Tweed Heads Civic Centre from 12.30pm on Friday.