Spreading Kindness: Joanna pays it forward

Joanna Rafferty receives a Big Hug Box

This Feel Good Friday we are proud to introduce Joanna who is helping The Big Hug Box to pay kindness forward after receiving a Big Hug Box from Kendall and in a delivery to Chris O'Brien Lifehouse in 2019.

After realising the impact a small act of kindness can have in the day of  patient, Joanna has chosen to donate 3 Big Hug Boxes annually to be delivered to the Sarcoma Unit at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse.

We are so grateful for Joanna's support, get to know her story as she shares it with us today.

"I was diagnosed with metastatic Ewing Sarcoma in February 2019 while visiting my parents on the South Coast of NSW with my 2yr old son. The Sarcoma specialist Centre for NSW is located at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse in Sydney, so, three months short of my 39th birthday, I commenced what was to be over 12 months of treatment, 730km from my home in the beautiful Northern Rivers of NSW. My mother became the full time carer of my son, while my father was my support during my hospital stays, as well as my driver for the 200km each way trip to Sydney from the Shoalhaven for treatment. 

There are many different types of Sarcomas (malignancies originating in either bone, or soft tissue), but each on their own is classified as a rare cancer, having their own unique response to treatment. I've been told that the chemotherapy for sarcoma is one of the most harsh there is. For my type of sarcoma, the treatment is just over a year (chemo, surgery and radiation), with the first 6 chemo cycles each given as an inpatient over three consecutive days. I don't know how I would have endured this part of the treatment (which involved being away from my infant son from Monday morning to Friday afternoon), without my father constantly by my side, including sleeping beside my bed each night. 

It was during the height of the lockdowns and visitor restrictions in Sydney last year that the sarcoma patients currently undergoing treatment kept coming to my mind. It really breaks my heart thinking of them having to go through such a grueling treatment without a support person and with visitor restrictions, perhaps stuck in isolation due to a wiped out immune system (which happens between cycles) or due to a covid scare. I wanted a way of letting them know that someone was thinking of them during this terrible time.

I had been gifted a Big Hug Box during one of my admissions, so I decided to donate three Big Hug Boxes to the Sarcoma Unit at Lifehouse to distribute to patients doing it particularly tough. There really is not much to look forward to during treatment, and I can only imagine what it would be like to endure this during a pandemic, so this was the least I could do to try and offer a little lift and connection, if only for a short moment. 

If I can, I hope to make this donation to sarcoma patients every year"

To make your own donation of Big Hug Boxes to a cancer centre that might have supported you or someone you love, you can do so through the following link https://thebighugbox.com/pages/sponsor-your-local-centre

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