Through my family, I've experienced the wonderful compassion and care provided by Professor George Kannourakis, the Director of Research at Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute on numerous occasions. Despite incredibly trying circumstances, Professor Kannourakis, who would always insist we 'call him George,' went out of his way to ensure that patients and their families were treated with dignity and compassion. Complex procedures and side effects were gently discussed and options, information and supportive hugs were readily available.
Although I have many stories, the one closest to my heart is my darling Grans.
Gran was my maternal grandmother; she wore trousers instead of skirts, drove a little Mazda 121, watched Melrose Place and made the best biscuits in the world. Growing up, she was an integral part of our lives in the audience for every netball game, swimming race and graduation. She lived and loved fiercely with a determination that would exhaust someone half her age.
Gran was also a survivor. At the age of 83 Gran grown up in the depression, worked hard to raise her family, lost her husband before the age of 60 and beat cancer twice. She hated the idea of losing her independence and abhorred things old people did, like playing lawn bowls. I think we all thought she would be around forever.
In 2008 she lost her older sister, 'Aunty Phyl' to pancreatic cancer, a sneaky, silent disease that is rarely diagnosed in time for effective treatment. Then things started to change for Gran too. Her eyesight got worse, she wasn't comfortable driving anymore and she lost her balance and had trouble using her right hand. Initially, this was put down to the stress of grief and the fact that Gran, despite her best efforts, was getting older.
A few weeks later at my mother's birthday dinner Gran struggled to hold her knife and fork, she kept dropping things and struggled to get in and out of the car. We took her to the doctor who suggested an MRI to rule out anything sinister ' at that stage we worried that she had suffered a stroke.
When the diagnosis came, it was devastating; Gran had a malignant, inoperable tumor on her brain. George was incredible. He allowed Gran to pick her treatment options, and when she decided that chemo was no longer an option, the kindness, support and gentle compassion he provided was wonderful.
Gran passed away almost 3 weeks to the minute from when she received her diagnosis. Though it was a horrible period for my family, the fact that she could be treated with such expertise and compassion, so close to home made things a little more bearable.
Ballarat is lucky to have such a wonderful facility available for such trying times. On behalf of all the 'Grans' out there I say thank you and encourage you to support the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute in any way that you can.
A personal account by Melanie Schoo.
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