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  • The story behind Rural Cancer Stories

    The story behind Rural Cancer Stories
    26 February 2018

    I grew up on a farm near Streaky Bay, about 650km away, so I've seen first-hand the challenges country people encounter if they are faced with a diagnosis of cancer.

    I now work as a Clinical Psychologist and Research Fellow at UniSA and for the last 10 years I've been working towards finding new ways to make it easier for country cancer patients and survivors to get the medical, social, emotional and practical support they need.

    Unfortunately, people who live outside metropolitan centres generally have worse cancer outcomes than people who live in cities, so my research is focused on understanding why these differences exist and how we can support rural people in ways that are acceptable to them, to turn these statistics around. Cancer Council SA has been very supportive of this research and I was pleased to have the opportunity to work at Cancer Council SA as Cancer Council SA’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Cancer Support) for a number of years.

    One of the first ways I started to try to improve outcomes for this group, was when I was completing my PhD, I worked with a group of rural cancer survivors as well as other individuals and organisations to develop http://www.countrycancersupport.com.au. This website continues to give rural South Australians practical information on how to cope and who can help if they are faced with cancer and is now managed by Cancer Council SA. 

    When we evaluated Country Cancer Support, one of the things that the website users said they liked the most, were the videos the website contains. And that's how this new resource, Rural Cancer Stories YouTube channel came about...

    Rural Cancer Stories features the stories of country cancer patients, survivors and their carers. It includes information on how they have coped and continue to cope with cancer, things they wish they knew earlier and practical tips they want to share with people who are going through similar experiences.
    The two to five minute videos are designed to provide online peer support and evidence-based advice to rural Australians who can’t access a face-to-face cancer support group, and/or who feel generic supportive care materials don’t fully recognise the unique challenges rural people face and the more limited resources and professional services available to them.

    Who is Rural Cancer Stories for? 

    A wide range of topics and experiences are covered in the short videos. To give you some examples:

    Bob, a retired butcher from Ardrossan, speaks about overcoming depression after his cancer treatment with the help of his psychologist, GP and wife.

    Vivonne from Ungarra talks about living with incurable breast cancer and why it is worth the effort to educate yourself, eat a healthy diet and exercise.

    Jill from Minlaton talks about being a carer and an advocate for her partner Elizabeth.

    John from Port Augusta speaks about leaving home for treatment and the supported accommodation services that can make it easier.

    Doug and Graham talk about the benefits of joining a cancer support group. As you can see from this photo, hearing these stories and making these films was a great privilege and a lot of fun.

    The project has been funded by Cancer Council SA, the Sansom Institute for Health Research, and the auDA Foundation. We are really grateful for the honesty and insights shared by the storytellers.

    We are now looking for people who are 18 years of age or older, live outside a metropolitan area, have watched at least three of the videos and have been diagnosed with cancer in the past 10 years (or supported/cared for someone who fits this description) to help evaluate this resource. If you are interested in assisting so we can understand its impact and make further improvements, we would be very grateful. Please email me at kate.fennell@unisa.edu.au to find out more. 

    The next thing I’m doing is travelling to India, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada and the USA with the help of a Churchill Fellowship, to learn from experts and organisations around the world about other new, sustainable methods of improving the health and well-being of rural cancer survivors.

    Thanks for your interest!

    Kate Fennell


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