ISSUES BASED FEATURE | BRAIN CANCER AWARENESS IN AUSTRALIA… THE LACK OF IT

Brain Tumours, and brain cancer is something that I’m sure we’re all aware about, but it’s something that not everyone would have a full grasp on. Many people are still oblivious to the fact that brain cancer is one of the most lethal yet understudied of all cancers. Brain cancer is the leading cancer killer for young people under age 39, and children under 10, yet little funding is received.

Devastatingly, among most of the population, there is very little that is known about this disease, here are some heart wrenching statistics:

  • Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for young people under the age of 39, and children under 10, yet it also carried the highest financial burden of all cancers.
  • In it’s malignant form, it is 100% fatal
  • It is one of the most under-studied of all cancers, yet the most fatal
  • Approximately 1600 people a year will be diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia, with approximately 1200 of these people passing away
  • One person is diagnosed with brain cancer every 6 hours in Australia
  • Every 8 hours in Australia, someone passes away from brain cancer

With the amount of people that are diagnosed with brain cancer daily, it’s a wonder that many Australian’s don’t actually know about the issue. One of the largest Brain Cancer/Awareness groups in Australia is the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation. It is the largest dedicated funder of brain cancer research in Australia. Their vision is to ‘give every patient with brain cancer access to new treatments through world-class clinical trials’. The Foundation holds and is associated with many events, such as music for life, walk for brain cancer and the sun-herald City2Surf.

Dr. Charlie Teo, Sydney’s renowned neurosurgeon is the founder for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, and is internationally renowned. He is the only Australian neurosurgeon to be Board Certified in both Australia and America. He has developed an international reputation within the field of minimally invasive neurosurgery. When questioned on the growing concerns of brain cancer, Teo stated, “It’s a worry that Australia still knows only so little about the issue, as it’s killing to many people. Throughout my time as a neurosurgeon, I’ve treated many beautiful people, who are facing – or have faced – this life threatening disease.”

Teo attends as many brain cancer awareness events as possible during his busy schedule, and is focused whole-heartedly about keeping his patients as healthy as possible. “I’m going to give my patients the longest life they can get. If the tumour keeps growing back, and it has to keep being removed, then I’ll do as many surgeries as possible.” Teo, so passionate about his patients states, “There may come a time in a patients life where we have to stop the surgeries, there’s only so many surgeries a brain can take. They’re left with more repercussions after each one.”

One couple that knows all to well about these repercussions are Wollongong husband and wife, Oliver Ivaneza and Romina Rondinelli-Ivaneza. Oliver has been a patient under Dr. Teo since his first tumour appeared in 2007. After being lied to by a Wollongong Neurosurgeon about the fact that they’d gotten 100% of the tumour out, when they actually only took 1% out to do a biopsy, Romina worried for her fiancé’s health, and tried to get into to see Dr. Teo. Devastatingly, they were given the news that Dr. Teo had a one year waiting list, but they’d try to get them in as soon as possible. With Romina’s persistence on the matter, they had a meeting with Teo, and since then, Dr. Teo has removed seven of Oliver’s consecutive brain tumours.

Since the day her now husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour, she has been on a mission to find out as much as possible, and raise as much awareness about the issue. As her life has taken some dramatic paths, she has a determination for brain cancer awareness to grow. She too, fell victim to having no clue what a terrifying and life threatening disease this was, until a loved one was struck by this terrible turn of fate. Since then, she has attended many brain cancer meetings, forums, and created the Gala Purple – a branch off the Cure for Life Foundation, with the aid of Dr. Teo. With Oliver as her inspiration, the Gala Purple was founded from a unified entity of people who are passionate and determined to eradicate and raise awareness of Brain Cancer.

When questioning Romina about her determination behind what she does, her eyes light up with passion, “The way I cope and deal with it is by knowing as much as possible. The more I know, the calmer I am. Creating the Gala Purple and attending forums and meetings is a way that I keep myself in control, and I know that Oliver appreciates it.”

As her husband has undergone many challenges, Romina is worried that Australia’s lack of knowledge about Brain Cancer will affect others in the same position. “I’m worried that I can’t do extensive enough work because I’ve got to care for Oli. Luckily theres people like Carrie Bickmore, who are bringing to light, the devastating realities of this disease. When I saw her Logies Speech, I was honestly speechless.” Although Romina knows there’s only so much she can do, she still goes to extreme lengths to raise awareness.

“The Gala Purple and I created an event in Wollongong, it’s a yearly dinner function, called the Gala Purple Night, and Neurosurgeons, such as Charlie come down, and everyone on the board of the Cure for Life Foundation, and it’s a really great night. It’s entertaining, and most of all, it’s raising awareness.” – Romina Rondinelli – Ivaneza, 2015.

Oliver Ivaneza and Dr. Charlie Teo at 2014 Walk4Life

Oliver Ivaneza and Dr. Charlie Teo at 2014 Walk4Life

Love, Lauren

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