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Bridgetown cancer survivor hopes to raise awareness for treatments at home and abroad

Daniel HockingManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Bridgetown's Michelle Wright hopes to bring awareness to cancer treatments and support needed both at home and abroad.
Camera IconBridgetown's Michelle Wright hopes to bring awareness to cancer treatments and support needed both at home and abroad. Credit: Daniel Hocking

Michelle Wright, a government administration worker from Bridgetown, is on a mission to raise both awareness for men’s health and treatment of prostate cancer, while also building awareness on the gap of cancer treatments in Cambodia.

Diagnosed with breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Ms Wright remembered the extensive support she received during her battle and recovery.

However, when her father was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, she realised the experience and support available to him was not the same, which led to her advocacy for support of men’s health.

“My dad was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and his journey is different and has been different in terms of the narrative, it’s not normalised,” she said.

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“There’s a disparity between breast cancer, which is super well-funded, compared to other cancers, including prostate.”

Ms Wright believed the profile on men’s health issues needed to be raised and the narrative on men reaching out for support and getting tested needed to change as well.

“I really do think recovery from cancer, and all other health issues, is very much a holistic approach and it’s not just about the medical treatments,” she said.

“We need to support men to change that thinking - to let them know it’s OK to reach out, be vulnerable and find support, because your family would rather you be alive and go through the process of getting better, than not.”

Michelle Wright was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, where she said the support she received was extensive.
Camera IconMichelle Wright was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, where she said the support she received was extensive. Credit: Supplied by Michelle Wright

Ms Wright’s advocacy and campaign to raise awareness about cancer treatments and supporting patients in Cambodia came from a recent trip she made there with her daughter.

“I was reading a number of articles about Vietnam and thought about what was going on with Cambodia,” she said.

“It’s about what is cancer treatment like over there, and it’s not what we have here, and that’s what drove me to think about what we can do.”

She met with Dr Eav Sokha, an oncologist from the Phnom Penh Cancer Centre, to hear about the gaps in cancer treatment and non-treatment support in Cambodia.

“He basically started cancer treatments in Cambodia and sees men when their PSA is over 100 and by then, they’re riddled with cancer with only one month or so to live.”

She noted the different contributing factors that impact their ability to seek treatment, including access to both treatment and equipment throughout Cambodia and poverty within the country.

“They don’t necessarily have the basics of treatment or they have basic treatment, because the only part of Cambodia you can get treatment is in Phnom Penh, you cannot get treatment in any of the provinces or Siem Reap,” Ms Wright said.

“People don’t have the money to travel from the provinces to Phnom Penh for that.”

She noted the differences in the healthcare in Australia and Cambodia and her desire to contribute to improving Cambodia’s healthcare and cancer treatment.

“The health system is really bad over there, they didn’t have X-ray machines in the provinces, and then you think about the equipment for a CT scan, or an ultrasound for a tumour, or to take a core sample,” Ms Wright said.

“We’re living in a pretty lucky country with a pretty amazing health system, and it becomes how can we give back and contribute to improving their health system, and what can we do.”

Ms Wright travelled to Cambodia recently, where she says the access to cancer treatment is limited and hard to reach.
Camera IconMs Wright travelled to Cambodia recently, where she says the access to cancer treatment is limited and hard to reach. Credit: Supplied by Michelle Wright

Ms Wright is preparing a masquerade event in Perth for June 17, hoping to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer and narrowing the disparity between support for men’s and women’s health.

“We are organising a ball at the Pan Pacific, with sponsors including Member for Warren-Blackwood Jane Kelsbie, Arctic Air Bunbury, and Ethos Media and Communications, with a three-course meal and five-hour drink package with a load of entertainment,” she said.

“The ball is about raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia as well as Men’s Health and Wellbeing WA, so we’ve got those national and local agencies, and we’re trying to identify where men and their families can get that support.”

Tickets for the Masquerade Ball are available through Humanitix.

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