A helping hand for rural cancer patients

A helping hand for rural cancer patients


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RURAL FOCUS: Eyre Peninsula PhD candidate Kate Gunn has developed a new online resource - Country Cancer Support - to provide much-needed information and support for rural South Australians affected by cancer.

RURAL FOCUS: Eyre Peninsula PhD candidate Kate Gunn has developed a new online resource - Country Cancer Support - to provide much-needed information and support for rural South Australians affected by cancer.

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YOU can take a girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl.

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YOU can take a girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl.

Such is the case with Kate Gunn, who hails from the rolling wheat fields and rugged coastline of the West Coast but now lives and works in Adelaide on her chosen path to help country cancer patients.

The psychology graduate is eight months away from completing her Masters of Clinical Psychology and PhD in the psychosocial needs of rural cancer patients.

As part of her research, she has developed a new online resource to deliver tailored information on "how to cope and who can help" when diagnosed with cancer.

A cancer diagnosis delivers a shocking blow to the patient, and their families, and in the country the effects are far reaching for close-knit communities.

And travelling vast distances for treatment and having to stay away from home puts further stress on patients and their carers.

"The needs of country cancer patients are different to those in the city," Kate said.

"This website is based on what country cancer patients have told me they wish they knew earlier and think other people like them should be told soon after being diagnosed."

Research has shown that treatment and also possibly mental health outcomes for rural cancer patients are generally worse than for their urban counterparts.

Possible reasons for this include later diagnoses, opting for treatments that require less time away from home, and difficulty in accessing support services.

Through extensive interviews with numerous country cancer patients and their carers, the overarching theme which appeared was the need for rurally-relevant information to help them cope better, access support services and get to Adelaide for medical treatment.

Kate, who grew up on a sheep and cropping farm at Mount Cooper, near Streaky Bay, always knew she wanted to pursue a career dedicated to helping people.

An aversion to blood quickly ruled out a career as a doctor or nurse, so she set her sights on psychology and graduated in 2008 with Honours.

"With my country background, I was aware of the extra challenges faced by rural people with serious health issues," she said.

"When the opportunity came up to do some research I wanted to focus on something that could be easily and immediately applied to the type of communities I care about.

"Sometimes it can be difficult for country people to reveal that they need some extra help, even though it is well recognised that dealing with cancer can be very tough.

"This website gives people some practical ideas about how they cope more effectively with issues such as stress and worry and the reactions and expectations of others.

I hope it also makes people more aware that seeking extra professional help is nothing to be ashamed of, and as you can see in quotes on the website, many people have said it was the best thing they ever did."

She said the project helped "empower" many rural cancer patients by involving them in a meaningful project that had the potential to benefit their peers.

"The input and guidance of the rural people involved in this project has been invaluable," she said.

The website also includes information about getting to Adelaide for treatment, where to stay and what to take, travel subsidies, what to expect with treatment and how to effectively communicate with doctors and other health care professionals.

*Full report in Stock Journal, June 14 issue, 2012.

The story A helping hand for rural cancer patients first appeared on Farm Online.

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