WALKING around the Korumburra Showgrounds oval last Saturday, and right through the night into Sunday morning, were many inspiring, emotional, courageous, and it must be said, tragic stories of individual, family and community battles with cancer.
It was Korumburra’s chance to host its first Cancer Council of Victoria ‘South Gippsland Relay for Life’ event and the occasion was an unbridled success.
One of those walking the boundary line was Jess Allamby of Korumburra, a Year 12 student now clear of any cancer concern after finding out she had ‘hyalinising clear cell carcinoma’ of the salivary gland, a rare form of cancer at age 9, which had metastasised into her jaw requiring extensive treatment.
A collective period of nine months in hospital over the intervening years, requiring among other things 2500 stitches in her face and she’s all clear, ready to complete her VCE and seek a career as a nurse!
Haven’t you spent enough time in hospital?
“I had five operations in 11 weeks and the staff at the hospitals, locally and in Melbourne, the doctors, everyone couldn’t have been more helpful. They were fantastic,” said Jess.
“I hope to complete my VCE this year, a bit later than I could have but then I’d like to do nursing.”
She’s already got plenty of experience.
And despite hearing problems associated with the cancer, she got her drivers’ licence last week. Yay!
Mother, Christine Allamby, said Jess’ prospects now are a far cry from what they were back in September 2010 when the condition was diagnosed and when the family took part in the Relay for Life event at Dumbalk the following year with all the trepidation of the road ahead.
“In the eight years that followed, Jess has spent about nine months altogether in hospital. And after that she had to learn to eat and talk again,” said Christine.
“But the support we have received from the hospitals, medical staff and from the community has been amazing. That’s when you really find out about how wonderful our medical staff are and your local community.
“And that’s what a day like this is all about.”
There were dozens of other stories of brave battles and triumph over this non-specific, insidious disease; like Jeff Lughetto, who with his family including wife Helen, daughters Belinda and Janelle, and granddaughter Isabel, also lapped the oval with hundreds of others at the weekend in the town’s first Relay for Life event.
It’s been five years since he was given the all clear after a bout of serious bowel cancer and after several operations and extensive treatment, the future looks bright.
There were lots of others like him and their family groups and the community certainly got around them, as they did around people who have also lost wives, husbands and other family members to cancer.
The Korumburra-Bena Football Netball Club was one of the best represented at the relay and one of the organisers of the club’s response, Meg Newton explained why.
“It’s a community thing and we want to support it but we also know a lot of people around the club and in the community in general who have been touched by cancer,” Mrs Newton said.
“It’s a great cause.”
And Korumburra and district certainly got on board, led by community stalwart Bill Rodda and others, raising well over the target of $40,000 with $43,500 being announced during the event, and more likely to come in over the weeks ahead.
“It was a fantastic success in many ways, everyone did so well,” said Cancer Council Victoria community event co-ordinator, Jo Walster.
“There was just a great vibe. Quite apart from the financial success, we had 400 registered and a lot more people came down and supported it through the day and into the night.
“The business community in particular was great. People like Josh Baker, Pure Fitness and lots of others.
“We had music and entertainment through until 11pm with the South Gippsland Concert Band, the School of Rock and a lot of local bands coming in.”
After 11pm, the relay continued until 9am on Sunday when organisers called it an hour early, ahead of the approaching storm.
“I’m glad we called it an hour early because there was some lightning when the storm hit and we had most of it packed away by the time the rain arrived,” said Ms Walster.
“It’s our first year at Korumburra but I think everyone has seen what’s involved now and we’ve already received some offers of support for next year, if as seems likely, we go again.
“The plan would be to have it in Korumburra for three years before it moves on and we look as if we’ll be able to spread the load a bit more evenly which will be better.”
The funds will go towards research, prevention and the other support services provided by Cancer Council Victoria.
Korumburra’s first Relay for Life raised $43,500