On World Lung Cancer Day, Peter Mac launched a new peer support group to give patients and carers from across Victoria a safe, supportive space to share their experiences.
Lisa Briggs was at home caring for her newborn when she coughed up blood and was rushed to the emergency department.
“I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and it had already spread to multiple organs in my body,” Lisa explains.
“I was told there was no cure but about six weeks later I started on a targeted therapy that’s giving me a really good quality of life.”
On top of treatment and caring for young kids, Lisa (pictured above left) was also having to grapple with a common issue for lung cancer patients – stigma.
“Many people don’t want to be vocal about their condition and yet talking about is what brings so much hope and support,” she says.
“Stigma creates a lot of shame for people with lung cancer. It makes them feel like they’ve caused this and it’s their fault.
“The first thing someone should say when they hear a person has lung cancer is, ‘I’m really sorry to hear that’, because everyone deserves to be supported.”
Approximately one fifth of people living with lung cancer are life-long non-smokers.
Currently there are only two peer support groups for lung cancer in Australia with people mainly connecting online.
But a new pilot group being started at Peter Mac hopes to fill this gap in Victoria.
Peter Mac’s Director of Prevention and Wellbeing Geri McDonald (pictured top right) says peer support is a very important aspect of a patient wellbeing following a cancer diagnosis.
“It’s about having someone to share the challenges and the little wins. Someone who knows exactly what you’re feeling and going through,” Ms McDonald says.
Lisa is now chasing after her kids and living a full life and has turned her efforts to advocating and supporting others living with lung cancer.
She says the new group will be a game-changer for lung cancer patients in Victoria.
“When people meet there’s this unspoken empathy, compassion and support just from having the same disease and knowing what each other and going through,” Lisa says.
“You feel supported, safe and not judged and that’s really empowering. There’s so much that we can learn from each other.”
“Survival rates for lung cancer are getting better but they’re still incredibly low, so for someone like myself with a young family, it’s really important that we share experiences about how we manage with life.
“Living with lung cancer can be really challenging and life has to move on when you have a young family like I do. My five-year-old doesn’t understand why I’m always running from appointment to appointment, he just wants his mum at home.”
The new lung cancer group is the third peer support group launched at Peter Mac along with breast cancer and carers.
For more information and session times, contact the Peter Mac Wellbeing Centre on (03) 8559 6260 or email [email protected]