Even now, Bloomhill Cancer Care client Ric Colclough tears up when he recalls the first time that he walked into the renowned Wellness Centre, with Billy, his red kelpie almost three years ago.
At the time he was already into his second year of treatment and was a little apprehensive about seeking support. However, the welcome that he got changed everything.
“I sensed something deep and special here, an acceptance and understanding of my plight from everyone, staff, volunteers and other clients,” Ric said.
“Bloomhill showed me there was more to my cancer journey than IV drips and the nauseating side effects of treatment.”
The 71-year-old’s cancer journey began in late 2014 when he was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma above and below his abdomen. His life expectancy was six to 12 months had he not pursued treatment. Following six months of chemotherapy, Ric relapsed eight months later resulting in another three months of treatment and a gruelling autologous stem cell transplant (SCT) which saw him receive seven days of 24/7 IV chemo, in complete isolation.
It was around this time that Ric reached out to Bloomhill. He has since had a dedicated registered nurse who regularly monitors his wellbeing, has formed connections with other cancer patients, joined support groups, exercise classes and meditation as well as having had a peaceful place to relax with Billy.
Although when all seemed well, in May of last year, pain near his belly button turned out to be a tennis ball-sized lump or follicular Lymphoma which is incurable but has a slower growth rate.
“Six months of another chemo brew ensued ending on Christmas Eve… Happy Christmas. I responded to treatment well.”
Up until March Ric was receiving radiation or maintenance treatment but chose to ‘hospital distance’ when COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, but not before he ended up in Emergency with sepsis which saw him warded for seven days.
Like all other Bloomhill clients, Ric has been in strict lockdown over the past four months but having access to their online services has been vital.
“I enthusiastically joined the Bloomhill Survivor Group online,” Ric said.
“Here I am in lockdown frequently talking with my Bloomhill nurses, zooming meditation sessions and fortnightly psychology appointments. I reckon at 71 and single I have earned the ‘Survivor’ label. I haven’t felt this good for years.”
As lockdown restrictions ease, Bloomhill is slowly returning to face-to-face appointments, and Ric is looking forward to being back at the Centre.
Despite all the ups and downs, Ric remains positive and is grateful to Bloomhill for their unwavering support. He has also expressed his gratitude to Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland and Freemasons across the state for getting behind the service especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am so appreciative that the Freemasons are supporting Bloomhill. I don’t know how it would have been for me over the past three years if it hadn’t been for all the services Bloomhill supplies to us clients.
“Bloomhill without a doubt, has been and always will be a heart-warming sanctuary for us. It’s not only the deep understanding of the day to day challenges we face in our respective cancer journeys but the welcoming and nurturing presence that is the Bloomhill hallmark we appreciate so much.
“The Bloomhill team face many challenges presently, not only pandering to our needs but just being able to survive in these troubling times. You not only helped me to survive and provide me with a quality of life in difficult and sometimes dark times but an opportunity to always look on the bright side of life. So once again a heartfelt thank you from all of us to all of you.”
Last month, Bloomhill Cancer Care’s calls for help were answered by Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland, ensuring 1,228 people living with cancer on the Sunshine Coast could continue to live well.
The Freemason charity provided a $200,000 COVID-19 Emergency Grant to help support the operating costs of the service in the wake of the pandemic. This came a year after the service received a $570,000 Flagship Grant and $130,000 interest-free loan from Hand Heart Pocket to expand its capabilities as a wellness facility in Buderim and relocate the warehouse for its op shop social enterprise.
The latest funding was crucial given that social distancing regulations had significantly reduced its primary source of revenue, with 11 of its 12 social enterprise op shops having to halt trading for a period of time, directly impacting the organisation’s ability to continue funding some of its cancer wellness services.
To further lessen the financial blow that the pandemic delivered, Hand Heart Pocket also provided
Bloomhill Cancer Care with more flexibility around the repayment of last year’s interest-free loan.
The grant was announced amid the Freemason charity providing close to $750,000 in emergency support and Grassroots Community Grants in the wake of COVID-19.