A year ago I met with an incredible woman and her equally impressive husband to discuss a gift they wished to make to help others fighting cancer.
I’d met Melissa Evans many years prior, as a supporter of Wishlist in her role as GM of a Coast resort. She was impressive back then but I left our first meeting in total awe of her strength.
Melissa revealed she was fighting a rare cancer - Sino-nasal Undifferentiated Carcinoma (SNUC) – a highly aggressive cancer that often only shows up when it’s too late for a cure.
At the same time we met another local man, Neil Russell who was also living with a SNUC diagnosis and feeling very much the same need to do something about the lack of research into cancers affecting 5,000 Queenslanders each year.
While waging their personal war against an insidious disease both Neil and Melissa, and Melissa’s husband Richard, gave generously of time and money to establish Wishlist’s Rare Cancer Care and Research Fund, dedicated to shining a light on the lesser-known and researched cancers, and better supporting Coast and Gympie residents living with them.
A number of local projects are underway as a result of their generosity including data collection, genomic sequencing, and the progression of research projects.
Meanwhile we gear up to continue our support of local cancer patients through the Wishlist “K’s 4 Cancer” on Sunday October 15, raising funds for local cancer services that our hospital foundation has directed more than $14 million to enhancing in the past 25 years.
It’s easy to be inspired by those like Mel, Neil and our K’s 4 Cancer ambassador Natalie Hunter who, with dignity and grace, take on a battle that goes beyond their own mortality, but serves to potentially benefit humankind through their generosity and selflessness.
Sadly, Mel lost her battle in May this year. The Wishlist team will have Mel and Richard, Neil and Natalie in our thoughts as we approach K’s 4 Cancer, along with all of those across the Coast and Gympie fighting an increasingly vulnerable foe. Vulnerable because of research and those that make it possible.
We walk and run for you!
Lisa Rowe's column published in My Weekly Preview, Oct 5 edition.