Sophie Cotsis MP hosts the 6th annual brain cancer awareness event at NSW Parliament

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The Brain Cancer Group (TBCG) in association with Brain Tumour Alliance Australia (BTAA) held its 6th Annual Awareness Raising Event on Tuesday, August 22 at NSW Parliament House. The event was hosted by NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, Work Health and Safety, The Hon. Sophie Cotsis MP.

The event, which was open to the public, was aimed at educating, advocating and bringing together patients, carers, specialists and community leaders to better understand the multiple ways brain cancer can uniquely effect lives.

Attendees were first treated to light refreshments in the Fountain Court before moving to the nearby Theatrette for official proceedings.

The awareness event was open to the public.

The formalities commenced with convenor, Dr Adrian Lee, medical oncologist and Director of The Brain Cancer Group, thanking Ms Cotsis for her continued and ongoing support since the time she invited the group to host their event at Parliament in 2016. He thanked everyone in attendance and welcomed a number of special guests including the Hon. Ryan Park, NSW Minister for Health, Minister for Regional Health; Zoë Baker, Mayor of North Sydney; Carolyn Corrigan, Mayor of Mosman and representatives of the BTAA including Catherine Hindson, former Chairperson and current Vice-Chair.

Dr Adrian Lee.

Parliamentary host of the event, Ms Cotsis, warmly welcomed attendees and expressed her gratitude to Suzane Peponis-Brisimis, Director of TBCG and Founder of the White Pearl Foundation – which raises funds for The Brain Cancer Group’s research program, for her work and “strong advocacy”.  

She gave particular emphasis to the “tough and torturous” circumstances faced by health professionals, who through their dedication and commitment, give patients a second chance in life; just as she was given five years ago when diagnosed with breast cancer.

Left to right: Kathy Samios, Sophie Cotsis MP and Suzane Peponis-Brisimis.
Parliamentary host of the event, Sophie Cotsis MP.

From there, The Hon. Ryan Park, NSW Minister for Health, discussed the role of government in cancer care and research. He highlighted the need to advance research of some rarer cancers that “have an enormous impact on people” and are “often lethal”. Mr Park’s presence underscored the ongoing commitment of government to supporting cancer research.

NSW Minister for Health, Ryan Park MP.

Next, keynote speakers Jess Hill and husband David Hollier gave a detailed recount of their personal journey from the perspective of the patient and the carer which moved everyone in attendance.

When asked to speak at the event, Ms Hill explained, “I also want to bring David, because I think a lot of time when you meet someone… (who) has cancer, a lot of the attention goes to that person who’s experienced in the cancer. The carer can kind of recede into the background. But the experience is just as real and acute for the carer as it is for the person going through it.”

Keynote speakers, Jess Hill and husband David Hollier.

The couple shared the mic during the talk, each shedding a different light on their experiences, some even drew laughter from the crowd.

Ms Hill, an award-winning journalist, author and ten-year survivor of brain cancer, remembered when she was first diagnosed in 2012, while based in Beirut as a Middle East correspondent for The Global Mail.  She explained both the physical and emotional impact it had on her life since having her first seizure aboard a flight. After a successful surgery, her tumour came back in 2020, just three years after she had given birth to her daughter. Today, Ms Hill has one last round of chemo left.

Mr Hollier, Psychotherapist and counsellor, explained his interpretation of events and how their responses to the entire process diverged in many ways. “I’m very comfortable with the idea that the stories we tell ourselves, the stories people need to believe are so important and have a validity that is separate from science… There is facts and then there’s the way we interpret them and what we need to believe is possible.” he said.

During his talk, Mr Hollier shared some of the lessons he learnt, ending with one he felt was most important, to lean on the friends and family around you.    

Guest speaker, Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon.
Guests that joined the awareness raising event.

Guest speaker, Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon, University of Sydney, Scientific Advisory Committee Chair, Psycho-oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG); gave an informative lecture on the uses and benefits of the BRAINS (Brain Cancer Rehabilitation, Assessment, Interventions for Survivorship Needs) portal, created to offer support and create positive change for those affected by brain cancer.

She offered valuable insight into how the portal seeks to identify gaps in services and information available to patient, professional and caregiver as well as to inform users of the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of brain cancer.

Associate Professor Michael Back.

Associate Professor Michael Back, radiation oncologist and Director of TBCG, gave the final closing address reiterating thanks to all who joined the awareness raising event and for their support.

The successful event ended with attendees enjoying refreshments in the Theatrette foyer.   

Mayor of Mosman, Carolyn Corrigan and Sophie Cotsis MP.
Attendees were provided with information on the work of The Brain Cancer Group.

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