Cancer journey puts friends on new path

Two Rocks Yanchep Assisted Cancer Travels founders Sue Dash and Jo Holding are great friends. Picture: Anita McInnes

By Ingrid Jacobson

YANCHEP businesswoman, Sue Dash beat breast cancer with more than a little help from her friends.

And through one friendship in particular, with Two Rocks woman, Jo Holding, her journey spawned a voluntary group that now provides subsidised transport to treatments for residents facing similar cancer battles.

Nearly four years after they started Two Rocks Yanchep Assisted Cancer Travels, the friends’ work has been recognised during the recent Australia Day Honours List ceremony, with the group taking out a community service award.

Both are overjoyed at the honour and are hoping it will give them a higher profile when it comes to attracting more volunteers, donations, and grants.

Ms Dash, the owner of Chocolate Drops in Yanchep National Park and the organisation’s president still recalls the difficult days that came after her diagnosis.

“During the time I was undergoing treatment I found transport to and from appointments a huge issue,” she said.

“Due to side effects of treatment I was unable to drive my car to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital the necessary five days a week for seven weeks.

“Once the effects of treatment began to have an impact, I was advised by medical professionals not to drive because of lack of concentration, tiredness, and an emotional state of mind.”

It was here that her family, friends and also CWA volunteers stepped in, drawing up a roster to take her to appointments.

Considering the alternatives – a taxi from Two Rocks would have cost between $275 to $300 a day, five days a week for the two-way trip Ms Dash was lucky.

The realisation of how vital reliable and affordable transport was to those being treated for cancer inspired her and Mrs Holding to start TRYACT.

Mrs Holding, better known around town as Jo Hutchins before her marriage last year, is the group’s treasurer and one of its main drivers who in the early days “paid for the petrol myself” to get it up and running.

“Sue and I were already close friends and we talked a lot during those dark days,” she said.

“One day we were talking with another friend and realised how many people we each knew in Yanchep and Two Rocks who had cancer.

“From there, we formed a cancer support group, and then started TRYACT.”

Through fund raising and grants, $30,000, has been already raised by the group to go towards buying a dedicated vehicle.

Presently, volunteers use their own cars, with petrol now being paid for by a grant from Westpac for running costs.

Mrs Holding and her husband, Ron also transport people staying at Genesis CancerCare Lodge, a venture she started in 2015 after being further inspired to help the cause.

Having run a bed and breakfast from her beachside home for 15 years, she made the decision to instead use her residence to provide another essential support to rural cancer sufferers – a place to call home while undergoing treatment.

To achieve this, she joined forces with Genesis CancerCare, and now provides free accommodation to people eligible for the State Government’s patient assisted travel scheme.

A vehicle donated by Nissan is used for transporting residents from the lodge to Genesis CancerCare’s day hospital in Joondalup, and when there’s room, people from the Two Rocks and Yanchep area can also get a ride.

Mrs Holding has high hopes that the recent award will bring in more financial support for the group.

“We’ve applied to Lotterywest but were told that TRYACT hadn’t been running long enough to qualify for a grant,” she said.

“That’s despite an increasingly high demand for TRYACT’s services, so here’s hoping that will soon change.”