STRONGER TOGETHER: Faith Lutheran College principal Janelle Anderson and marketing assistant Jo Vivian are part of the Ribbons Program which provides a supportive space for cancer patients to share their stories.
STRONGER TOGETHER: Faith Lutheran College principal Janelle Anderson and marketing assistant Jo Vivian are part of the Ribbons Program which provides a supportive space for cancer patients to share their stories. Meg Bolton

Cancer journey unites women

CANCER is the unenvied fight which calls hundreds of thousands of Aussies into battle every year, it's also the cause for uniting these women.

When Janelle Anderson was appointed Faith Lutheran College principal in 2007, her first consultation on the job was to meet with a mother diagnosed with cancer.

The meeting left her thinking, if she could help that mum, how many other people were looking for support.

In 2012, Mrs Anderson held the first pink ribbons function uniting parents, teachers and others affected by cancer.

A cancer survivor, Mrs Anderson said the group shared their experiences and learned how cancer affected everyone differently.

"It's just sharing and knowing might happen to you,” Mrs Anderson said.

From losing sensation in fingertips and toes to nail growth, the group is a safe space for patients and survivors have open discussions about the disease.

The group aim to meet at least once a school term, incorporating students in the events.

Cancer survivor and Faith Lutheran College marketing assistant Jo Vivian, who also attended the group, said including students taught them about the effects of cancer.

"It creates an open dialogue surrounding cancer whereas normally people would probably keep it a bit quiet or to themselves,” Ms Vivian said.

"It's enabled a lot of the students, especially with Janelle, to be able to open up and talk about stuff.”

Mrs Anderson said she used her experience with cancer as an education process for students.

"Particularly when the grade 7s first arrived I had my hair on Monday and by Friday I was bald,” she said.

"I went to their year level and took my scarf off ... we talked about what would happen and what would be some of the side effects I would go through.”

Mrs Anderson said the students were extremely receptive to her stories and the program, with many often checking up how she is going.

While the program is a Faith Lutheran initiative, the group encourages cancer patients without a support network to become involved.


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