If you ever come across Christina Efthymiades and her walking companion, Plato the Greek Dancing Cat, at a local park in the Sydney suburb of Concord, make sure you give them a smile and wave.
They’re friendly and just doing their absolute best to raise as much funds as possible for the Sydney Cancer Survivorship Centre at Concord Hospital.
Established in 2013, the Centre is the only free clinic in Australia which offers a multidisciplinary team of professionals to support an individual’s needs following a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer survivors are able to access four pillars of support at the Centre including:
(1) a Survivorship Clinic for people with early stage cancer who have completed chemotherapy and want to see five health professionals to create a ‘survivorship care plan.’
(2) a Survivorship Cottage where free activities are run for cancer survivors and their families including, but not limited to, yoga, pilates, art therapy, mindfulness and card making.
(3) a Survivorship Gym run by exercise physiologists where cancer survivors can improve their fitness, strength, quality of life and also be treated for cancer symptoms such as cancer-related fatigure.
(4) and Survivorship Research where the Centre is looking to provide high-quality evidence of how best to help manage the types of issues of side effects that impact cancer survivors.
The Director of the Centre, Professor Janette Vardy, tells The Greek Herald these four pillars are necessary to ‘provide a much more holistic approach to people’s care.’
“Rather than just concentrating on ‘has a person’s cancer come back’ or the length of somebody’s survival after a cancer diagnosis, we’re looking not just at the quantity of the survival… but the quality of the survival,” Professor Vardy, who is also a medical oncologist at the Concord Cancer Centre, says.
“So we know that to improve the quality of survival, we need to look at a much more holistic approach. We’re really aiming to keep people as healthy as we can for as long as we can.”
Step Up for Cancer Survivorship:
To ensure such an essential and free service at a public hospital continues to operate, the Centre has launched the ‘Step Up for Cancer Survivorship’ campaign, which aims to get people exercising during the month of August to raise a fundraising target of $50,000.
Professor Vardy says people have really taken up the initiative even though they are ‘doing it really tough’ right now during the NSW lockdown, and stresses that all the donations are tax deductible and going towards a great cause.
“The money we’re raising is going towards being able to provide extra exercise programs for our cancer patients and they’re people at all stages of disease. Some have completed treatment and have no evidence of a cancer recurrence, others have quite advanced disease,” Professor Vardy says.
For Ms Efthymiades, the decision to ‘Step Up For Cancer Survivorship’ was an easy one. The Concord local has always been an active supporter of cancer research, having co-founded The Bloody Great Committee in 2013 (now the Foundation for a Bloody Great Cause) and raising funds for the world-leading blood cancer clinical trials at Concord Hospital.
So when her business, Laconic PR + Communications, was called upon to assist with communications for the Centre’s ‘Step Up’ campaign, she jumped at the chance to get involved in a practical way as well.
“I took it as an opportunity to stay fit and healthy myself but then get behind the charity as well, which I think is a great cause,” Ms Efthymiades tells The Greek Herald exclusively.
The 51-year-old didn’t want to exercise by herself however, so she decided to get creative and asked her friend Plato the Greek Dancing Cat to walk with her as well.
Plato first came on the scene during the online classes offered by Ms Efthymiades’ dancing group, The Nassibian Dancers, this year and she says she couldn’t do the fundraising without him.
“I really just want to get the Greek community behind us. I would love to see Plato the Greek Dancing Cat take out the leader board,” Ms Efthymiades says.
“I recognise it’s a really challenging time for a lot of people at the moment. I also know that it’s a time of people being really, really generous to try to help others. So if they can direct some of this generosity to cancer survivors, why not!”
If you would like to donate to Ms Efthymiades’ fundraising page, you can find that here.