Heather Anderson, is one of the Network Committee members. Together with Brian Sheppard, she attended the recent Cancer Care at the Crossroads Conference, at Te Papa, Wellington. In this article, Heather shares her thoughts and impressions from the conference.

My mind has been spinning since attending the Cancer at a Crossroads Conference. The conference was at Te Papa in Wellington. So much information and so many phenomenal people. The Data is so specific I will not even try and report on that. – we have were that the slide shows will be available to us and we will share as and when they come out.

I attended the Conference as Representative of the Network. I was very very aware of the weight of responsibility to: a) represent our Network in the best possible way I could; b) put forward the concerns of our members as and when opportunities arose; c) make connections as much as I could in the timeframe that I could. I wanted to make connections to assist us to reach people in areas where we did not have good representation. I wanted find out how our Network could appeal to more people in particular our Maori people. I wanted t find a way that we could connect better with all New Zealanders affected by head and neck cancer.

There were times that I felt I was under-qualified to attend but at the end of the day perhaps I was more than qualified. I have now had Cancer 3 times. Each cancer was individual and non-related. I have a rare cancer. I am affected by post-code care. I am one of the working poor in New Zealand. Anyone attending from a central hub came in with all the tools available to them. For those of us outside of those hubs is what needs a spot light and focus on. The only other factor I could have bought to the table would have been indigenous. That is not to be – however as you will see I did find a way to slightly mitigate that lack.

Brian has written a call to action letter and that was the feeling through out the sessions.

On Wednesday afternoon the Conference started with a pre-Conference lecture. Dr Fatima Cardoso is a world re-known Oncologist from Lisbon in Portugal. She has an interest in Advanced Breast Cancer (ABC.. She and others have been instrumental in setting up ESMO. ESMO is a 10 step guidelines program to improve outcomes for those with ABC.

Dr Cardoso travels the world helping countries roll out these guidelines. It is her belief that they are relevant for all cancers. ABC patients have had significant improvement in outcomes since introducing the guidelines.

At this lecture I was lucky enough to meet Monica Koia from Palmerston North. She is completing her PHD in Maori Health. We attended the opening at Parliament. We listened to personal cancer stories from Pip Brown (Ladyhawke) and Mike Hesson. Mike's brother passed with cancer. The most interesting speaker was Prof Skegg – I so want to get a copy of his speech. He spoke of all his years of conferences, meetings. His work with successive governments and Ministers of Health. He spoke highly of some work. He was firm in his comments that the previous Government had dropped the ball. He challenged the Minister of Health, and MoH to actually do something and make a difference. That speech set the tone for the conference.

I will post each session with links to the speaker and their work.

Things I take away from the Conference on behalf of Head and Neck Cancer Support Network and myself -

I met and talked to as many as I could – many only for a few minutes but I do have the email addresses of all attendees. In all meetings I made sure everyone was aware that I was there representing the Network.

I explained that HNC is on the increase in particular with HPV. That HNC is the one cancer that cannot be hidden from sight. Many had not thought of that.

Different options were given for the government to consider – Starship Hospital services, ESMO from Europe, CPAC from Canada and Cancer Institute NSW – all getting good outcomes.

A clearer understanding of Institutional Racism was gained. There are people and organisations working to address poorer outcomes for specific groups.

Most importantly I believe, and the one that I feel will give us the greatest impact going forward, is the connections I made on a more personal note with Monica. She introduced me to attendees within the Maori community. The question I kept asking was how can we connect better.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

Diana Ayling

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