LIVESTRONG Leaders are individuals that make a yearly significant commitment to those in their community affected by cancer by spreading the message of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. They do this by fundraising, hosting events, bringing LIVESTRONG Foundation resources to their local hospitals and more. One of our amazing leaders from South Africa, Chris Oliver, talks about why she is involved with LIVESTRONG and what she is doing in her community to help spread the LIVESTRONG Foundation message.
What does LIVESTRONG mean to you?
LIVESTRONG, as the international backbone of cancer support, is the first port of call for help, advice and empathy. It is an organization that is helping African countries with few resources to spread knowledge about cancer and motivate their governments to treat cancer as the huge threat it is. This brotherhood of people is trying to fight this vicious disease, inspire, motivate and advise me.
Why are you a Leader?
I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2005. At the time, while I was recovering from my cancer operations, there was nobody to talk to and the oncology workers were not very forthcoming. One organization handed me a bad photocopy of an English pamphlet about kidney cancer. It was eight years old.
I felt absolutely lost and alone.
South Africa is lagging far behind in cancer support and so many people fighting their battle with cancer feel exactly as I did. I knew the only way to change this and create an environment of enlightenment and support was to go out myself and try to do something about it. I became a Leader because, with LIVESTRONG behind me, I have a huge amount of knowledge and experience to call upon. The very name represents the attitude I want to present to those patients I work with and advocate for.
What are you doing in your community?
Distances are vast in this country so I joined a national organization, Cancer Buddies, who are affiliated to People Living With Cancer and provide one-on-one cancer support buddies across South Africa. The buddy usually has had the same cancer as the patient, making it easier for the patient to relate to them and be encouraged by their journey. Communication between them can be via email, phone or Skype. Subsequently, I was one of the founders of the Johannesburg Cancer Buddies branch.
To cater to patients in Johannesburg I then co-founded the CanSurvive Support Group with an oncology nursing sister and another patient, where we hold monthly meetings with cancer patients, sharing relevant information with them. We provide speakers with expertise in all types of fields, from nutritionists, physiotherapists, pain specialists, laughter therapists, sexologists, financial experts to advise on dealing with medical insurance companies and claims, to many wonderful motivational speakers. We also attend sports and corporate events where we speak to members of the public about prevention and coping with cancer and hand out pertinent, updated literature.
I am also active in promoting our latest project, CanAssist, which provides refreshments for patients receiving chemo at the local state hospital where facilities are worse than basic (actually, absolutely pitiful) with approximately 150 different people a day waiting in queues for treatment, usually from the early hours of the morning until late in the afternoon.
I produce a free monthly e-newsletter for cancer patients—mostly for South Africa, but it now has quite a number of overseas readers. This contains news and knowledge which I, as a cancer patient, consider important, which is why I believe it is so well received. I do not accept any adverts so there is no external influence over the content.