Many Central Coast residents are participating in Dry July next month to help fund Central Coast Local Health District’s (CCLHD) CoastCanCare wellness program which supports local adults diagnosed with cancer, their families and carers.
A month without alcohol is a tough commitment for many young people to make but Gosford Hospital emergency nurse Rebecca Baldwin has a deeply personal motivation to take on the challenge.
Miss Baldwin, aged 31 of Narara, said she was “in complete shock” when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2017.
“I was just 29 at the time and probably the healthiest and fittest I have ever been – I was running half marathons and had just completed my first triathlon,” she said.
“I was overseas in England at the time when I felt a lump and thought something is wrong.”
Within a couple of months Miss Baldwin began what she described as a gruelling 12 months of treatment with chemotherapy and a double mastectomy to remove the cancer.
“I was losing my hair, I looked really sick and I was also struggling to deal with the emotional strain which is much harder than the physical side effects,” she said.
It was at this point that her lymphedema physiotherapist told Miss Baldwin about the CoastCanCare wellness program.
“I have a phenomenal family so I didn’t think I needed any outside help but the CoastCanCare program provided me with more support than I could have imagined,” she said.
“I started out doing an art therapy class which I loved and then began tai chi.
“They have also taught me how to tie a head scarf, gave me a wig to wear, showed me how to draw on my eyebrows, helped pay for bills and lots of other valuable support.
But the biggest benefit for Miss Baldwin has been the connections she’s been made with other survivors.
“The workshops have countless healing and wellness benefits but what is by far the most valuable thing for me is being in a room with other people who know what you are going through,” she said.
“They all know what it’s like to have cancer and lose your hair and not feel yourself.
“It’s a safe place to cry, talk and vent and work on my wellness.”
After 12 months of treatment Miss Baldwin is now in remission and discovering what she calls her “new norm”.
“It’s definitely an adjustment but CoastCanCare helps you through the process and I am back at work which is really nice to be a nurse again.”
Miss Baldwin is taking on the Dry July challenge and encourages others to get behind the cause.
“Raising funds for this program is something that is really close to my heart and I hope others see the value it has for people affected by cancer,” she said.
“I’d also like to create more awareness about the CoastCanCare wellness program for young people on the Coast living with cancer who may feel isolated or alone.”
Visit https://www.dryjuly.com/beneficiaries/centralcoastlhd-coastcancare to donate.