When local Sara Croker found out she had the “big C” – Cancer – she found herself wondering how she could bring more awareness to this cruel disease … and, surrounding herself with other cancer sufferers and survivors, set about creating a unique and local Calendar for Cancer Awareness. We spoke with Sara about the calendar.
A bit about you … your history in the area, and when did your battle with cancer begin?
I’m a born and bred country town girl originally from Cootamundra, moving to Cundletown in 2014 with hubby to be close to our parents. Happy securing a full-time job as an early childhood educator at Cundletown Preschool, I led a gold star team, having an absolute blast in the baby/toddler room. My passions led me to take the next step in my own learning, studying for my Bachelor through university online. Hubby and I also decided to start training to become foster parents last year.
Everything was going well until I started to get run down at the end of last year (2018). 2019 began with bowel issues, tummy pains and rapid weight loss. I thought to myself, “Something isn’t quite right. This isn’t just life pulling me down”. So, I went to my local GP and following some thorough questioning; I was sent to undergo a range of tests. My CT scan showed a large blockage in my colon and a 50-cent sized spot on my liver. With some concerns, I went for a colonoscopy, endoscopy and biopsy at the end of March.
Upon waking up from my hour-long procedure, I was told I was staying in the hospital for a couple more days for observation, and that my surgeon would see me later to explain. I was told the colonoscopy could not be done; the blockage in my colon had made it impossible. Two days later, I underwent surgery to remove the blockage. After that, I had a week to wait to see the surgeon and find out my results. Then, BOOM – the news nobody ever wants to hear …! “Sara, your tumour and sixteen of the forty nodes we took were cancerous”.
From here, I had a PET scan and was referred to the oncology unit at Taree Base. It was here that I meet the lovely Giovana, who told me as sweetly as she could, “You have terminal colon cancer, which has metastasized to your liver and lymph nodes throughout your abdomen. Your life expectancy is two to five years. But I am going to do all I can to help you”. This meant chemotherapy for three days every two weeks for six months and possibly more surgery down the track.
On Wednesday 16th October, I had my twelfth chemo treatment, followed by another CT scan and possible laparoscopy procedure in Sydney next month.
How did you first come up with the idea of creating a calendar like this?
Receiving a wealth of information, I was given a flyer about the “Look Good, Feel Better” workshop. Filling out the form online and receiving a booking for June, I thought it would be nice to get photos taken. Then it hit me: “A calendar. A local cancer awareness calendar!”
From here, I approached our local Can Assist branch, as I wanted to donate the funds to them. They were so excited about my idea and offered loads of ideas, information and support.
How did you manage to find so many willing subjects for the calendar?
I set up a Facebook page, “Manning Valley Cancer Awareness 2020 Calendar” and distributed flyers at oncology, plus through word of mouth.
What’s been the experience so far in getting this calendar together? Have you found that it brought a sense of support and positivity with it?
It’s been a creative, busy and inspiring experience which has brought support, laughter, strength and purpose to the lives of the women involved. I have not only created a fundraiser to help cancer patients and their families but have made the best circle of friends in what we call our “warrior tribe”. I am truly humbled by all the local and distant support through donations, time given by hairdressers, makeup artists and photographers to create the amazing photos for our calendar, local media for spreading our story, and businesses supplying prizes for our raffle.
What are you the major outcomes you are hoping to achieve as a result of this project?
The major outcome I want to achieve is around cancer awareness: that the disease comes in so many forms, affecting anyone, at any age; that it has a domino effect, touching family, friends, work and study, and we all need to pull together to support one another.
Also, raising much-needed funds to support our local community. It is a very expensive process for some, especially when you can’t work. And, creating a local cancer support group, which is well on its way with my new circle of friends!
Are there any people you’d like to particularly thank for assisting with this project?
My hubby Mark, Ma and Big Fella, Mum Croker, bestie Bec, Cundletown Preschool friends and family. My warriors: Bron, Jen, Dale, Donna, Julia, Marilyn, Carol, Karen, Samantha, Debbie, Dianne, Kacee, Jodie and Sam. As well as Can Assist, Hairworks at Harrington, Admire Skin Care and Beauty, Lauren Molloy, Ambiance Day Spa, ST Imagery, LySar Photography and Captured by Me Photography.
Where can people purchase your calendar from?
Pre-orders are available through contacting me via the Facebook group — Manning Valley Cancer Awareness 2020 Calendar, or by contacting me on 0422 132 155.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Cancer takes away goals, independence, opportunities and loved ones, but through a great supportive network and a positive approach, anything is possible. I am proof of that!
Interview: Ingrid Bayer.