Mulwala family steps up for cancer
Simone Cooke, who was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer last December, will captain team Cookies in the November 7 event, with the hope of raising at least $3000.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the walk is being held as a virtual event again this year, with participants encouraged to complete their selected distance of five, 10 or 20km in their own communities and to connect with other walkers online.
Mrs Cooke and her team will walk five kilometres from Mulwala to Yarrawonga taking in some of the sights along the way.
“Our particular walk will be five kms that will start at the amazing new pelican’s statue at Purtle Park Adventure Playground in Mulwala, then slowly make its way into Yarrawonga, along the foreshore and out to Chinaman’s Island,” Mrs Cooke said.
“It will begin at 7am for an online opening ceremony then at 7.15am walkers will set off on their own socially-distanced walk.”
After undergoing radiation and chemotherapy at the cancer centre, Mrs Cooke hoped to convince as many families and friends as possible to take part in the walk and give back to a “wonderful” facility.
“Their support has been nothing but amazing and has truly helped me through this life hurdle,” Mrs Cooke said.
“This is my way of giving back. Everyone at the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre is absolutely wonderful. Having treatment every fortnight, you very quickly get to know people.
“Everyone I interact with from reception, café, wellness centre, the pharmacist, your doctor and of course the nurses who look after you. They have been there every step of the way.
“The kitchen girls also who come around asking if we would like a cuppa or lunch - they are all amazing. I want to hug them all.
“They are all so supportive and caring, especially on those really bad days. We celebrate every milestone along the way and of course the good days. Let’s not forget fellow patients, some you see on a regular basis.
“This is my first time participating in the Sunshine Walk, and I’m looking forward to it. Walking with family and friends who have been with me throughout my journey will be great.”
Personally, Mrs Cooke has received some positive news with her prognosis and is grateful she has been able to have treatment so close to home.
This is a major reason she decided to partake in the event as all the proceeds remain local, helping locals throughout the region.
“My treatment is going well. The Oncologist is very happy with how my progress is going and I am having more ‘good’ days than bad and very slowly regaining strength,” Mrs Cooke said.
“CT, MRI scans and bloods have come back positive, but the journey is still long. Maintenance is an indefinite ongoing thing.
“Every cent we raise will stay in our region to help local people impacted by cancer.
“There is a lot of people from within our region, many who travel some great distance to this centre for their treatment.
“People going through the cancer journey should be able to do it close to home, where they can be supported by their family, friends and communities.
“It’s reassuring to know that every cent raised stays local and helps. The funds we raise through the Sunshine Walk will help pay for new equipment for earlier diagnosis and treatment. It will pay for staff training, so the local workforce can stay up to date with the rapidly changing world of cancer treatment.
“It will be invested in research, providing local people access to national drug trials, and it will support wellness services, like psychology, exercise programs and support groups.”
Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust Fund board member, John Watson said the virtual event last year was a huge success with 50 teams and more than 600 participants helping to paint the region bright yellow.
“For a lot of people, the virtual format actually suited them better because they could still get together with a group of their family and friends, and walk in their own communities,” he said.
“We had groups walk in Bright, Culcairn, Howlong and Corowa, and as far away as Cairns, the Gold Coast and even America.
“So far, the registrations are up on last year, they are still open for a while though, so we are unsure on exact numbers at the moment.
“It is all to raise awareness for the region. Being in country towns it can be hard to travel hours to the cities for treatment, so for people in our region to know there is treatment in our backyard often takes that added weight off their chest.
“That’s also the beauty of this event, it doesn’t just have to be Albury/ Wodonga people involved. People from right across the region can be included and feel they are making a difference.”
Mr Watson said a virtual event would allow the Sunshine Walk community to stay connected and achieve something positive together in uncertain times.
“The health and safety of our participants, spectators and volunteers remains our number one priority, with cancer patients being among the most vulnerable to COVID-19,” she said.
“Even during Covid, cancer doesn’t go away, which is why we are keen for members of the community to get out there and campaign to raise awareness.
“The virtual event will allow everyone to participate in their own socially-distanced walk, and to connect with other participants via our social media and website platforms.
“The opening ceremony will be very moving and important, listening to the different messages of users of the centre and staff will be moving.
“If you don’t go and get checked it could end up being the worst-case scenario. That’s why we want to stop as much cancer as we can, as early as we can.
“Thank you to the community for getting involved and remember to get out in your yellow shirts and remind the community of the sunshine walk.”
The walk is being held as part of Sunshine Week, from November 1 to November 7, which encourages schools, businesses, sporting clubs and community groups to host a fundraising event in support of the cancer centre.
“Of course, I’d love others to get involved, join my team or even create their own,” Mrs Cooke said.
“Donations can be made, or you can join ‘The Cookies Team’ by visiting www.sunshinewalk.org. au and searching Simone Cooke.
“Everyone who registers for the Virtual Sunshine Walk 2021 also receives a free shirt!”
For further information or to register your own team for the walk, visit the sunshine walk website.
A Mulwala team of family and friends will be participating in the ‘Sunshine Walk’, raising money and awareness for the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust Fund.