Icon Townsville marks ten years of delivering exceptional cancer care

Icon Writers / 16 Nov, 2023

Since opening the doors of Icon Cancer Centre Townsville on 2 December 2013, the team have provided over 134,100 patient consultations and delivered over 61,800 treatments to patients across North Queensland.

Icon Townsville was the sixth Icon site to open its doors, providing medical oncology and haematology services to the local community.

“We have played an important part of Icon’s focus to bring cancer care closer to home for rural and regional patients,” says Icon Cancer Centre Townsville Site Manager, Georgina Whelan.

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The centre is home to experienced cancer specialists who provide medical oncology services and treatment for blood disorders. Many of the team have worked at the centre since it opened – eleven team members and six doctors to be exact.

“Even our cleaners and linen delivery guy have been the same for a decade,” says Georgina, who is one of the centre’s original team members.

“The last decade at the helm of Icon Townsville fills me with immense pride. We are like a family and have true care and compassion for each other. When I look around, I see the number or team members that have been on this journey since we opened our doors who are all celebrating their ten-year milestone together, which is almost unheard of in a workplace.

“One of the nicest parts about having so many long-term employees is that we have all in a sense ‘grown up’ together. There have been so many milestones personally and professionally that we have shared along the way. As a team, we have witnessed many graduations, driving lessons, sporting achievements, broken bones, broken hearts, marriages, divorces and a few babies and grandbabies. These are the stories and the moments we share and makes us the tight knit unit we are,” adds Georgina.

Along with many long-term team members, Icon Townsville has a large cohort of patients who have received treatment at the centre since it opened a decade ago.

Here, four of those patients share their stories and gratitude for the Icon Townsville team.

Eric’s story

Eric was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in October 2013, just two months before Icon Townsville opened its doors.

Since then, Eric has undergone treatment under the care on one of Icon Townsville’s founding doctors, clinical haematologist Dr Edward Morris.

The retired policeman who lives in Forrest Beach, which is 130km north of Townsville, makes the four-hour round trip each week to have treatment at Icon Townsville.

“Carol (Eric’s wife) and I have travelled plenty of miles over the past ten years. It’s exhausting at times, but it has to be done,” says Eric.

In their spare time, Eric and Carol enjoy travelling around Australia and abroad. Despite Eric’s illness, the couple have been able to enjoy many getaways thanks to the support of Dr Morris.

“Dr Morris is always flexible with patients, so we can lead somewhat normal lives. He will make sure we can fit in trips around my treatments. We’ve been to China, Hawaii, Fiji and travelled around Australia in a motorhome. While we were traveling around Queensland, Dr Morris organised for us to pick up medication from Icon South Brisbane and Icon Mackay,” says Eric.

Eric, who turned 70 in April this year, is full of praise for the Icon Townsville team.

“I can’t thank the team enough. When I go there, I feel like part of a family. When I walk in the door, I feel safe and I know I’m in good hands. It’s a happy place for me. Many of the staff have been there since I started my treatment, so I know most of them. I know what is going on in their lives and I talk to them about their children, which is lovely to hear about,” says Eric.

“I’d like to thank the Icon Townsville team for the last ten years, I’ve enjoyed every minute of their company and I hope to see them for another ten years.”

Elizabeth’s story

For nearly 15 years, Elizabeth has battled Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The retired teacher started her treatment with one of Icon Townville’s founding fathers, clinical haematologist Dr Ian Irving.

“I met Dr Irving on the day his son was born and he was very apologetic about running late. He is such a lovely man and I knew from the start that I was in safe hands with him,” says Elizabeth.

When Dr Irving moved to Brisbane, Elizabeth was transferred to the care of Dr Edward Morris.

“I feel very blessed to have been cared for and continue to be cared for by such a wonderful medical team at Icon. I take my hat off to the doctors who started Icon. They have brought the best cancer treatment in the world to Townsville. It means the world to people like me,” says Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth and her husband John travelled to Tasmania to visit their son, Dr Morris organised for the Icon Hobart team to treat Elizabeth, who undergoes monthly blood transfusions.

“I like to put a positive spin on things. I think my cancer treatment is helping train young doctors and nurses on how to treat others cancer patients,” says Elizabeth.

“To the Icon Townsville team, I’d say just keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re tremendous at what you do. The knowledge they have is amazing.”

George’s story

When Townsville businessman, George went to the doctor seeking treatment for a sore shoulder, he had no idea his world was about to be turned upside down.

That was in 1996. Now 27 years later, George continues to live with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“I was so busy with work at that time, so I asked Lorraine (George’s wife) to pick up my test results. They told her it was bad news and that I needed to go in immediately,” says George.

At the time, George owned eight McDonalds restaurants in Townsville and one in Ingham. He was a member of numerous Boards and President of the Rotary Club of Townsville.

George and Lorraine had also recently welcomed their first grandchild in the lead-up to his diagnosis.

“I didn’t have time to be sick. But I was soon forced to realise that my health had to come first” says George.

George has endured a lot of health issues over the past three decades. Ongoing and varied treatments for his cancer have left George with painful nerve damage in his feet. Despite this, he chooses to look at the positives.

“I can’t change it, so I just have to get on with it. I used to run a lot, but I’ve had to slow down over the years and now I enjoy long walks,” says George.

With his cancer in “sleeper mode” and under the watchful eye of Icon Townsville clinical haematologist, Dr Sunaina Miranda, George is determined to make the most of life.

“I’ve learned the importance of saying “no” to people, so I can focus on my health,” says George, who has sold his businesses and is enjoying retirement with Lorraine and their dog, Seiko.

“We have a holiday house on Magnetic Island, so we try to get over there when we can. I’ll have treatment on the Thursday afternoon and then go to the holiday house for a few weeks in between.”

Since commencing his treatment at Icon Townsville ten years ago, George has built many friendships with the team. Some of those friendship span even longer.

“A young nurse called Anita was working at the Mater in 1996 when I first had treatment and she is now at Icon. I also knew Georgina (Icon Townsville Site Manager) from the netball team she played in, as I sponsored the team. We know these people and it’s like one big family,” says George.

“The people at Icon Townsville are worth their weight in gold. I’m always made to feel welcome. Lorraine would often come with me to my treatments, but that stopped when we got Seiko four years ago. They still ask how Lorraine is. They are just wonderful, caring people.”

Harry’s story

Sadly, Townsville resident Harry is all too familiar with the heartbreak cancer brings. The 66-year-old lost his twin brother to renal cell carcinoma in 2019.

“He donated stem and blood cells for my bone marrow transplant, so if it wasn’t for him and the care of Icon Townville, I wouldn’t be here today,” says Harry.

Harry was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in July 2012.

He has endured a long list of treatments over the past decade and experiences chronic pain, but Harry isn’t one to complain.

“Fortunately for me, since they got my cancer under control, I’ve had no reoccurrence. When I was diagnosed, I was told I’d have eight or nine years left at best and it’s been over ten years since I was diagnosed. And it’s been ten wonderful years. I go back for check-ups with Dr Edward (Morris) every three months. The people there at Icon Townsville are just wonderful,” says Harry.

As a way of giving back to the team who have cared for him over the past decade, Harry recently built a wooden rocking horse, which he donated to one of Icon Townsville’s many fundraising endeavours for local charities.

“That was my way of giving back. I haven’t been able to do any long-term work for a while because of the chronic pain I experience, so woodwork keeps me occupied. It was a year-long project and I really enjoyed making it and was proud to give something back. I can’t thank the staff enough for all they have done for me,” says Harry.

“It means the world to me.”

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