CANCER touches everyone in some way – through family, friends, colleagues or their own personal experience.
Horsham woman Carmel O’Kane knows this all too well; she has lost two sisters to the disease.
However, her experiences with cancer do not end there. Cancer is a part of her everyday life in her work as a cancer nurse practitioner.
“In my professional life, cancer is what I do – I care for patients,” she said.
Ms O’Kane said people might consider a career as a cancer nurse to be sad. But for her, it is the most rewarding experience.
“We are really lucky that we can make a difference and hopefully their lives can be a little bit easier and better because of what we can do,” she said.
“Someone did that for my sisters and I like to think that I am doing that for someone else’s sister.”
Ms O’Kane said families were often expected to take roles as carers, which was a challenging ask.
I hope I can provide that care for patients to allow family to be just that – familyCarmel O'Kane
“I wasn’t a carer for my sisters. While I provided care and support, a lot of what I did was be there as a sister – that’s important when it’s your family,” she said.
“Professionally, I hope I can provide that care for patients to allow family to be just that – family.”
A passion for offering patients with cancer the chance to have quality care close to home motivates Ms O’Kane to keep making a difference.
“Now people are living for such a long period of time, we want them to live well and not where they are traveling all the time,” she said.
We are really lucky that we can make a difference and hopefully their lives can be a little bit easier and better because of what we can doCarmel O'Kane
“I love the idea of my role where three health services are employing me together and they care about their people to bring me here and provide that care.
“I love being here and making a difference. It is what I am passionate about.”
Ms O’Kane will speak about the survivorship program at the Horsham and District Relay For Life survivors and carers function tonight.
“We have innovated the Cancer Council’s wellness in life after cancer program to include an exercise program,” she said.
“People with cancer are often an older age group and they don’t know what is safe. We want to help them through that.”
Ms O’Kane said the Horsham and District Relay For Life was special because it shone a light on the community’s spirit.
“It is country people – they don’t think about themselves first,” she said.
“It is a wonderful environment and they raise a lot of money.”