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7 October, 2021

Cancer centre opens

“I cried all day when I heard the news. Happy tears,” said Shirley Foran, after hearing about the Western Cancer Centre in Dubbo finally opening.

By Emily Middleton

The Dubbo Cancer Centre will provide cancer care closer to home. Photo supplied.

The high anticipated centre has officially opened to patients last week, bringing life-saving services much closer to home for people in regional and remote areas of Western NSW. Mrs Foran started a petition for a cancer centre in Dubbo back in 2015, after spending nine years in-and out of Sydney hospitals for her husband’s treatment.

"I could not count how many times he was airlifted to Sydney, sometimes in the middle of the night. Majority of the time it would be for six weeks to three and a half months. That’s a long time to be away from home. It’s a burden health wise, emotional wise and financially wise,” said Mrs Foran.

“We were exceptionally blessed because my two daughters and sister lives in Sydney.” But not everybody has contacts in Sydney. Navigating an unknown city while trying to find the financial and emotional support can become draining.

“It’s just heart breaking,” said Mrs Foran.

“It's a long haul to have to keep going back to Sydney. Plus there’s hardly any accommodation. I was paying $250 a night. I asked why I didn’t receive my RPA discount once, and they told me they had given me a room with a view instead.”

Mrs Foran decided one day after being on the stint for three and a half months, that something needed to change.

“I thought, I have to do something for the next lot of people who come from anywhere out west. When I get home, I’m going to do a petition. Signatures from all over Western NSW were gathered and pitched to parliament.

“One thing that really shocked me is [as] I walked up and down the main streets in Dubbo, and went into every shop, and the majority of people who signed the petition had no idea that there was no cancer treatment in Dubbo.”

Former Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW, Kevin Humphries, invited Mrs Foran to hear her petition being tabled in parliament.

“We were put in the front row of the gallery. When parliament opened, they welcomed my daughter and I, and they thanked us for the work we had done. It was a very proud moment.”

Mrs Foran is ecstatic that the cancer centre is finally up and running in Dubbo.

“I cried on and off all day, not sad tears, happy tears. It was a very long and hard road.

“I was very fortunate because the whole town of gilgandra was behind Bob and our family. I would come home and there would be food in the fridge, meat cooked, flowers all through the house, lawn was mowed. Anything that anybody could possibly do was done.”

Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, said the completion of the Western Cancer Centre marks a historic milestone for the Dubbo community and the entire western region.

“The support for this centre from right across Western NSW has been overwhelming - this is evident from the 45,961 signatures that I delivered to the Australian Parliament in November 2016, calling for this facility. I’m proud we’ve been able to deliver on this commitment.

“This facility will allow cancer patients to stay closer to their loved ones during treatment, providing the quality care and support that regional people need and deserve. It will not only benefit families throughout the western region but will be utilised by people right across my electorate and regional NSW who will no longer have to travel to the city to access life-saving cancer treatment,” said Mr Coulton.

The clinic rooms and reception opened first and will be followed by new chemotherapy treatment spaces and wellness space next month. Radiation therapy and PET CT Scanner services will be available in the coming months.

The Western Cancer Centre Dubbo includes 16 chemotherapy spaces doubling capacity, as well as new consultation rooms and wellness space to provide support and well-being services to patients and their families. Designed in close consultation with the community, the modern two-storey building includes uplifting artwork, including murals of local Aboriginal bush foods by renowned public artist Fintan Magee, designed to promote well-being for patients and families during their visit.

The Cancer Centre also features an internal suspended artwork from Jade Oakley in collaboration with Aunty Di McNaboe that depicts local Aboriginal bush foods. There are also framed photographic portraits of “friendly faces” from Dubbo and Western NSW communities by Asher Milgate, and interior wall paintings of the local waterways in Western NSW by artist Greg Carosi.

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