julie rpa brain tumour what happened | julie baker rpa
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Every day, Merimbula’s Julie Baker puts a little more ground between herself and cancer.
The bright 25-year-old is currently racking up 25 kilometres a day in preparation for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a fundraiser to help build the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) in Sydney.
And her mission is personal.
In 2011, Julie was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma in her brain, lung and liver while working as an airline hostess for Regional Express in Townsville in 2011.
She’d had the job with the airline for just five weeks and joked it was the only airline she was tall enough for.
“It was such an unusual type of cancer and because I was so well looking it stumped a lot of doctors,” Julie said.
“The doctor called and asked me to come in and told me what was going on and asked if I could go straight to hospital.
“I thought ‘no, I have stuff to do!’”
Her treatment at Townsville and RPA included surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Not long afterwards, both of her paternal grandparents died within a month of each other, both from cancer related illness.
Now she says her health is stable and before she returns to RPA next year she’s working hard to give something back.
“I seriously started training a week ago,” she laughs.
“I must say when I signed up I thought there’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to do this, I had a defeatist attitude but I changed it.”
Seventeen family members and friends have joined her including former Young Endeavour captain Andrew ‘Gunna’ Rourke who Julie sailed with in 2009.
Andrew has personally raised $15,001 for the cause and has nothing but praise for Julie.
“Onboard Young Endeavour she was awesome; she did everything with high energy, was selfless, inspired others and had a huge zest for life.”
Julie’s team also includes her father Ian, two sisters (one from Jakarta) and Eden’s Benay Sykes, her colleague at Merimbula Airport who has raised more than $5000.
Julie says the support has been “overwhelming”.
The Lifehouse concept was formed by RPA cancer specialist Dr Chris O’Brien, who died of a brain tumour in 2009.
His vision included clinical care, research, education and therapies to create better outcomes for patients, their families and carers while providing medical staff with opportunities for innovation and holistic care.
“All the oncologists, radiologists and neurosurgeons as well as care and support will be in the one building so the most you’ll have to do is get in a lift and go up two levels,” Julie said.
• Benay Sykes, Julie Baker and her dad Ian Baker prepare for a ride ahead of the 200 kilometre Ride to Conquer Cancer.
An 18-strong Merimbula-based team, headed by Julie Baker who is fighting cancer, took part in a charity ride over 200 kilometres to “Conquer Cancer” at the weekend.
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The team, dubbed “The Wolf Pack” (because we look after our own), raised more than $81,000 in donations as they rode with 1600 others from Sydney’s Olympic site to Camden.
Julie and the team all completed the ride with just minor breakdowns to two bikes.
“It was amazing and such a success,” said Julie. “It was very, very special, and such an honour to have so many of my friends and family take part in the ride with me.”
Her father, Ian Baker, said his Julie had first been diagnosed at 23 with neuroendocrine cancer in her brain, lung and liver.
“She is now 25 and we have battled with her to fight the cancer through the Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney,” he said.
“She is a fighter, riding 50 kilometres a week, swimming at the Pambula Aquatic Centre and going to the gym regularly.”
‘The Wolf Team’ involved father Ian, Julie’s three sisters, including one who flew in from Indonesia, the captain and some crew members of the ‘Young Endeavour’ youth sailing vessel on which Julie was a crew member four years ago.
Others joined from her work and friendship base and extended family.
The team rode 100km on Saturday to Camden and the 100km back to Sydney on Sunday.
Ian said while the family received world class medical care at RPA , they also experienced the short-comings of the system.
“We know first-hand the frustration of being passed from one doctor to another, one appointment to another, one test to another all the while not knowing exactly what will happen.
“On top of this we dealt with emotions and concerns about what having cancer means and how it impacts someone’s life,” he said.
Julie said it was humbling for the team to raise so much money for the cause or cancer generally and thanked the Merimbula area community and businesses that had been so generous.
The weekend event raised $5.7 million for the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at the RPA. The Lifehouse will provide integrated care for cancer patients and their carers.
Julie endured the frustration of being continually passed from one doctor to another, going from one appointment to another, and taking one test after another. And during this very difficult period Julie never knew exactly what was going to happen.
Fortunately, the establishment of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Centre has the capacity to change this. The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse will provide all cancer-related treatments, research and appointments in a single building.
Doors open at 8pm, and tickets are $40 available from Club Sapphire.
Support Julie and the Wolf Pack’s bid to create a better life.
For information about the Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA, contact: Michelle Cook [email protected] or visit the website at http://www.conquercancer.org.au/index.html.