When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 I was completely stunned and shocked as well as distressed.
I had 2 young children and was also looking after sick family members. In addition I was very busy working in a hospital providing care and support to patients including many patients with cancer.
I remember thinking this must be a mistake. I don’t get cancer; I help other people who have cancer.
I felt very let down by my body and lost confidence in my body and myself. It was hard to believe that my body had been developing an aggressive cancer that could kill me and deprive my children of their mother, and I wasn’t even aware that it was happening.
A lovely, caring friend told me about Life Force and encouraged me to get in contact with them. I rang and spoke with Jilly. I can’t remember the conversation but I can remember the feeling of being enveloped, comforted and supported by Jilly’s warmth, understanding and compassion.
I started going to the group at Edgecliff with Jilly and Caro. It was a huge help to me. I was surrounded by people who had been through similar diagnosis and treatment experiences. I remember thinking, this is the first time I’ve felt “normal” since my surgery.
Being in a caring, supportive environment with people who had been through the same or similar things to me, including disfiguring surgery, helped me to adjust to what was happening to me and helped me to integrate this new, different me into the old me and helped me to see that there was a way forward despite the uncertainty.
Caro’s meditation sessions were extremely helpful. I never wanted them to end and used a lot of the imagery to help myself between group sessions.
I also went on a Life Force group retreat which was really lovely. The opportunity to focus on our recovery with the aid of meditation, visualisation, massage and other helpful activities in a beautiful environment with caring, skilled facilitators was very positive and healing.
Twenty six years later I still remember and appreciate the wonderful help, compassion and warmth I was privileged to receive from Life Force.
I discovered LFCF when my partner and I were dealing with his metastatic colon cancer. He was in hospital, not doing well, and I felt absolute despair. LFCF provided a sanctuary for me to share what I knew others were feeling, in a calm, loving environment. I was part of both support groups; first for me with breast cancer and then as carer for my partner very soon after with colon cancer. I survived, he didn’t. I owe many sweet memories and the gaining of wisdom through LFCF’s beautiful leaders and support group members. This foundation enabled me to laugh, cry and to learn to live my life to the full; healthy and with courage.
"I have been attending Life Force Cancer Foundation support group meetings since 2003, around the time of my first diagnosis. It is the most gentle, powerful, welcoming, warm, at times heartbreaking and life-changing group I’ve ever attended. The unique nature of this group is that everyone has had a diagnosis of cancer and can fully comprehend the emotional ups and downs of this journey. It is a privilege to witness and hear the other members’ stories. I am eternally grateful for the honesty of the sharing and for the fact that each of us is heard. Navigating around and through both my cancer diagnosis and medical treatments over the years has been challenging, but connecting with the group each week has allowed me to work through the grief, fear and loss, as well as being able to share the joys that have come into my life. Jane (counselling facilitator) and Caro (meditation teacher) are the most amazing and compassionate women. I’m so blown away by their commitment and support. Caro’s guided meditations are artfully created with a theme throughout the term. They are the ‘healing balm’ to end each session and are so relevant and poignant to what I am going through at that time. I have also been lucky enough to attend Life Force’s retreats - the most nurturing and precious weekends I’ve ever had. Thank you.”
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 when my youngest child was only seven. Chemotherapy made me feel very sick, I was terrified that I might die, and my anxiety prevented me from sleeping. Luckily a friend I met through a meditation group told me about Life Force and I contacted the organisers of the Inner West support group.
My English isn’t very good so I was worried that people wouldn’t be able to understand me but I straight away felt accepted by Jane and Caro and the other group members. I never felt any judgement and I realised that even though our first languages were different, we all spoke ‘cancer’.
I’ve never forgotten Caro’s wonderful meditation at my first meeting, where she took us to a beautiful garden. After that, I managed to sleep right through the night for the first time after many, many sleepless nights.
The type of counselling that Life Force uses was really helpful. It is person-centred in that it addresses the whole person, not just their symptoms. I decided to study and now have a Diploma in Holistic Counselling and for some years I facilitated some of the support groups with Caro.
The weekend retreats that Life Force occasionally runs are amazing. I’ve been to many of these and loved the fact that we were all there just for ourselves, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. Everyone was free to just feel whatever came up for them during some of the activities, knowing that Jane and Caro were always there to support us if we needed them.
I will never forget the support I got from Life Force and it has changed my life in a very positive way. It is now much easier for me to cope with all my relationships and I no longer am so afraid of dying or facing problems that could come up if my cancer comes back. Life Force gave me a sense of self and I am living a better life than I ever had before I found them.
I initially felt overwhelmed by the amount of information and number of decisions I needed to make. After diagnosis, I started to learn a new vocabulary including Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, the chemicals used in chemotherapy and their effects, treatments, autologous transfusions (using my own blood), stem cells and more.
As I talked to people, watched TV or walked down the street I thought to myself, "I've got cancer and you haven't".
It wasn't that I was angry at others - it was just that I felt different, a bit isolated. Not that loved ones or people were the cause.
"When I was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer seven years ago, I saw a psychologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on a weekly and sometimes twice weekly basis, to help me deal with the emotional upheaval that my diagnosis created.
On the psychologist’s recommendation, I joined the Monday night Life Force patients’ and survivors’ support group and have been going regularly for about five years."
"Life Force was a life saver for me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 After undergoing a double mastectomy and commencing nearly six months of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiotherapy I connected with Life Force early on. I firstly attended their Edgecliff for over 3 years and have now started attending their Annandale group as the ramifications of having had cancer still impact on my life."
"I wanted to thank the Life Force Cancer Foundation for organising and facilitating and of course financing, the beautiful three-day retreat held at The Francis Retreat, Bonny Hills. As part of the group of 12 ladies that were so lovingly looked after, I'm a Breast Cancer Survivor. This retreat was so fulfilling that I'm finding my words are not enough to describe the joy I felt during my stay.
Everything from meals, accommodation, massages, art therapy, Qi Gong, Yoga, and Nature meditations were included in the pampering pack. But more than that the retreat facilitators were with us totally and wholly from the moment I arrived until the moment I got picked up 3 days later. It was so peaceful and restful being with everyone, trying out new practices like art therapy and Qi Gong, sharing our past experience with cancer and being allowed to be just me. And lastly to all the very generous people who donate time and money to the Foundation, I say Thank You Very Much, this retreat has changed my life."
"I attended the Life Force Cancer Foundation, November 2018 Retreat at Francis Retreat Centre, Bonny Hills, NSW. The experience was so relaxing and beautifully restorative. To be amongst a wonderful group of women on the same journey, with kind and informative 'guides' was a much-needed respite from the pressures and demands of the outside world. 2 & 1/2 days of Yoga, Beach Walks, Massage, Qi Jong, Relaxation, Art Therapy, Nature Meditation, Excellent Conversation, Great Food, Sleep and Laughter was just what I needed.
Thanks so much to Life Force for making it possible, as well as the organizers, retreat leaders and attendees. I now have a new local network of women treading the same path, who share this memory with me, to reach out to. That is gold!"
This has been the best two days I have had since the diagnosis. Thank you, beautiful ladies, for the nourishment to my soul, body, mind and entire being. I am taking away so much for being here. I feel restored, rejuvenated and revitalised. Thank you all. The love and nurturing from the facilitators and other participants will be with me forever. Much love and gratitude.
I liked most... being able to be myself and talk openly without holding back, and sharing experiences with people that truly understand.
How I will describe the retreat to family and friends, bliss, me time, sisterhood, support, hope, love, community, a new family, nature, empowerment, compassion and understanding.
Generally, Lee didn’t like groups. He had been a loner in his youth and his cancer had made others seem even more remote. While he lay weak and nauseous in hospital, he kept thinking how his youthful peers were in control of their lives.
"In the 5 billion year history of the universe, for reasons which I find unfathomable, I have been given a gift of more than fifty years of consciousness and awareness. That such a gift should be of limited duration, is nowhere near as extraordinary as the fact that it was given at all."
- Professor Greg Ralston, 2002
"Dealing not only with his dementia, cancer was another blow to the family. I had many questions and not enough answers. Sure, the practicality of taking him for tests, scans, radiation treatment, x-rays and further tests were difficult however the physical and emotional toll was the most challenging I faced being the primary carer for dad’s journey."
So many good memories of being a Life Force Angel. Such a great group of people coming together to support exciting fundraising ideas that made a real difference.
We had planning meetings that were full of laughter (more like celebrations), where we developed new ideas, made plans and new friends - all for a good cause.
Jilly was the social magnet that brought us all together and inspired participation and contribution. Pamela was the fountain of fundraising knowledge and direction. Lucy was the quiet achieving administrator. We all played a part and all felt so valued. We certainly didn’t feel all pure and dutiful as we were having far too much fun. There was never any pressure to do anything so it felt easy to contribute just as much as anyone wanted or could. The fundraising events were fabulous and such a privilege to be involved. Thank you, Jilly and Life Force.
During my term as a member of the Board of the Sydney Theatre Company 1996 -2009, I was delighted to be able to help organise fundraising events for Life Force Foundation, as I considered it to be a most important organisation supporting cancer patients and their families.
The Sydney Theatre Company showed their support by hosting the Life Force “Evenings of Poetry and Prose” events at the Wharf Theatre each year. Well-known actors and high profile personalities were approached by Life Force and asked to read two or three of their favourite pieces of poetry and/or prose. They accepted willingly, as it was such a wonderful cause and gave their time voluntarily.
Performers included international stars William Hurt, Ewan McGregor, Michael Caine, and Ian McDiarmid, and local favourites John Bell, Ruth Cracknell, Arthur Dignam, Leah Purcell, Drew Forsythe, John Howard (actor), Max Cullen, Alex Dimitriades, and Hazel Hawke, Kerryn Phelps, Gretel Killeen, Natasha Stott Despoja, Kate Grenville, Roy & HG and Tom Kenneally among others.
There were about six presenters per evening followed by a wonderful supper, with food and wine donated and presented by the Life Force Angels. They were extremely popular events, with a packed theatre and raised considerable funds for the Life Force Foundation.
It was an honour to be associated with this very worthwhile cause.
I first met Jilly Pascoe back in 1995. A chance encounter at a Fred Hollows Foundation event led me to want to raise money for Life Force Cancer Foundation.
I was so inspired by what she was doing for people dealing with the experience of cancer as a result of her own lived experience. At the time Jilly was virtually single-handedly running all the admin and fundraising elements of Life Force as well as leading groups and organising retreats. She was an absolute powerhouse.
As a professional fundraiser, I offered to help where I could.
Jilly had already run a number of fundraisers but I knew one of the toughest things is drawing a crowd. So I suggested that we form a sort of fundraising support group, whose sole job it was to bring people to our events. We called ourselves the Life Force Angels.
Over the years the role of the Life Force Angels expanded from just being a guest magnet for the fundraisers to one of being involved in many aspects of organising them. Whenever we needed to send out a fundraising request to our database of supporters, for example, the Angels came together and over cheese and wine assembled the mail packs. It was a labour of love and laughter was the order of the day.
We made so many dear friends and, as a number of the Angels were members of the groups, lost some too. But it was always such a privilege to work with these amazing people and get a first-hand understanding of the difference this small but mighty organisation made in the lives of those it touched.
all the above gave to Life Force without payment or other consideration