Getting through cancer one Hawaiian shirt at a time
No matter the prognosis, cancer is a scary word. It conjures up fear, worry and the unknown. After addressing all the initial questions: What is the treatment? How to deal with a cancer diagnosis for me and my family? Will I need to stop working? What are the side effects? How bad is it?, many cancer patients will then begin the treatment path with equal fear.
76-year-old Tasmanian local, John Osborne’s fears disappeared when he began his care at Icon Cancer Centre in Hobart. After an elevated PSA reading and the tests that followed, John was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thankfully the cancer was in its early stages but John, like many others would undergo numerous procedures and treatments that all come with an element of concern. John knew very little about radiation therapy treatment and had walked into Icon with a quiet nervousness.
“You try to pretend you aren’t worried. You put on a brave face and get on with it. But I had my concerns, it was nerve racking. So to add some little joy into my first day I decided to wear one of my bright Hawaiian shirts,” said John.
“When I walked in to Icon I was greeted by friendly faces and surrounded by other patients who didn’t look all that miserable, considering they were all somewhere they’d rather not be. I approached the girls at reception who immediately smiled and started a conversation about my choice of outfit. All of a sudden the friendly atmosphere made me feel calm.”
After his first visit and the reaction he received from the staff, John decided it would be fun to wear a Hawaiian shirt to treatment each day. The weeks that followed were coloured with positivity and a sense of community.
“Every day I’d come in for my radiation and be greeted by name by each member of the team. The treatment was just part of my day with people I enjoyed spending time with. I made friends with another patient who sadly looked worse off than me, and who, even after treatment I made an effort to see. I got to know the staff and share a few stories and I was in a place that made cancer feel somewhat easier to tackle.”
On his last day of treatment John was greeted with an incredible surprise. The entire Icon team dressed up in Hawaiian shirts and setup a wonderful farewell.
“I opened the door and all the staff ran at me in their bright Hawaiian shirts, they popped a lei on me and they were so excited to see me reach my last day of treatment. I was so surprised and delighted in their efforts. When I walked into the bunker they put on Hawaiian music and a disco show! Everyone was smiling and laughing.”
For John, it was these personal moments that helped him get through his treatment each day. To say thank you, John donated one of his artworks to the centre and although he doesn’t want to be on that treatment bed again, he’s grateful for the care he was able to receive.
“The friendly approach and the easy nature of the team and the place made me feel supported. Cancer is scary, so whatever positivity you can bring to it most definitely helps.”
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