Cancer patients speak up

By MEL MARTIN

MAGGIE Verco wants all the ammunition she can get to fight for her cause.

So she came to Coffs Harbour from the North Coast to attend the Cancer Council NSW and Cancer Voices NSW consumer advocacy training workshop on Friday and Saturday.

"There has been such a lack of support for cancer patients, I want to be able to do something," Ms Verco said.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms Verco had to travel to Sydney for her radiation, at a cost of $100 per day.

"I have a good income, but what do people who don't have sufficient income do? Do they just go off and die?

"So I'd like to advocate for radiation treatments in my region, as well as for crucial medication to be put on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)," Ms Verco said.

Her breast cancer ? HER2+ ? requires a drug called Herceptin, which is only available on the PBS for people with advanced breast cancer even though trials have shown it to be beneficial to patients at earlier stages. For Ms Verco, Herceptin would cost about $50,000 per year.

"I don't have the money, so my doctor hasn't included it in my treatment," she said.

"I can't believe Viagra is available on the PBS, but not Herceptin. So I have to do something."

The workshop aimed to give cancer patients a voice and encourage them to speak up by giving them lobbying skills.

"We're training people to write to their MP, approach the media and develop advocacy plans ? all the skills they need to make sure their voices are heard on the issues they think are a priority," Cancer Council Mid North Coast manager Patty Delaney said.

The 22 participants took home a tool-kit containing the resources they need to take action and engage others within their local community.

"The Cancer Council recognises that cancer patients have a valuable role to play in campaigning to reduce cancer risks and improve services ? from lobbying to restrict smoking in public places, to educating people in sun protection and other ways of being cancer smart," Ms Delaney said.



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