Hitting the trails for breast cancer awareness month

Image: supplied

CARRYING nothing but the pack on his back, Alan Chung is trekking 1005 kilometres through Western Australia’s Bibbulmun Track to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Joined by his wife Shirley and best friend Brandon, the trio are trekking in memory of Alan’s mum for breast cancer awareness month.

Alan was just 10 years old when his mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997.

“I watched [her] fight breast cancer for the first time and survive,” he said.

 “But she was diagnosed again with a malignant brain tumour in 2004.

“Again, she fought and she won.

“However, fate had other plans, and in 2017, for the third time in her life, she was diagnosed with leptomeningeal disease.

“The cancers she had fought so hard against had spread to her brain and spinal cord.

“I lost my mum in February 2018, after a nine-month fight with her third cancer battle; she was only 62.”

“I am grateful that mum was able to share in so much of our lives after her first diagnosis, which is why I fully support breast cancer research,” said Alan. Image: supplied

The group will walk through rain and shine, scale mountains and some days cover over 50 kilometres, to complete their trek by the end of October.

“I wanted a challenge… something out of the ordinary that would inspire people to donate,” said Alan.

“It has been a lot tougher than I originally anticipated but I’ve been really enjoying it.

“The views from the top of the mountains were exhilarating… it was well and truly worth the sore knees and effort.”

Alan said the support from his family, friends and work colleagues help him to persevere.

“I think about my mum a lot too, she keeps me going,” he said.

Alan’s fundraising efforts help NBCF-funded researchers continue their life-saving breast cancer research. 

Such research includes that conducted by director of research investment at the NBCF, Associate Professor Samantha Oakes, who is investigating reactivating cell death in breast cancer cells.

“Ultimately if we can kill breast cancer cells, we can get rid of the tumour and cure the patient,” she said.

“We looked at a particular drug that was taken from blood cancers and asked whether we could use that drug to reactivate cell death in triple negative breast cancers.

“What we found was really interesting… when we used it in combination with standard chemotherapy, we were able to kill triple negative breast cancer cells.

“So these drugs that can reactivate cell death are really effective at treating those really hard to treat therapeutically resistant breast cancers.”

Associate Professor Samantha Oakes brings 20 years of experience to her innovative breast cancer research. Image: Supplied

Dr Oakes’ ground-breaking research contributes towards the NBCF’s mission to end deaths from breast cancer.

“What’s wonderful about research is every little piece of the puzzle will ultimately end in reducing the number of women and men who might die from breast cancer,” she said.

It is expected that over 20,000 women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia this year alone.

“Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia,” she said.

“We know that the… rate of growth of new breast cancer cases is exceeding the rate of growth of Australia’s population.”

 She said it is “absolutely crucial” to invest in breast cancer research to overcome such numbers and continue the NBCF’s mission towards zero breast cancer deaths.

“We thank each and every person who raises funds to contribute to breast cancer research, we could not do this without the generosity of the Australian public,” she said.

Such generosity has already seen Alan surpass his goal of $10,000 just two weeks into their trek.

“Charity is a team effort and we couldn’t do this without the support of everyone who has donated their time, money, resources and words of encouragement towards our cause,” he said.

“Not only are we raising money for an important cause, we are also raising awareness, which is also incredibly important.”

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Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts is a Masters of Journalism and International Relations student at Monash University. She is interested in advocating for women’s empowerment, amplifying the voices of marginalised communities and creating a society more inclusive and welcoming of minority groups. Jessica is passionate about writing stories that help make a difference.

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