20 years on: Complementary Therapies Become Lifeline for Cancer Patients

20 years on: Complementary Therapies Become Lifeline for Cancer Patients

Solaris Cancer Care celebrates its 20th year this month, reflecting on how it nearly didn’t exist after facing early lack of support and understanding.  

When Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Clinical Haematologist Dr David Joske founded the Solaris Cancer Care Foundation to provide support and complementary therapies to cancer patients in 2001, medical professionals were sceptical about the therapies’ efficacy. It nearly prompted him to give up after two years. 

“The pushback I received stung. I experienced a crisis of confidence and had to remind myself that I had to push forward with my decision no matter whether people followed me,” Dr. Joske said.  

Twenty years on, Dr Joske’s decision has broadened to encompass six centres with three in key regional areas being South West, Great Southern and Pilbara providing over 28,000 intervention treatments yearly to people living with cancer and their carers.  

Solaris Cancer Care has also expanded beyond its initial delivery of complementary therapies. It now offers an integrative service model that allows clients and their families to attend counselling, psychoeducational workshops, access online services, support groups and regional centres. 

“Many of us underestimate how essential support is when people are first diagnosed and going through treatment. When cancer patients go through their journey, they experience both the side effects of treatments such as chemo and radiation alongside periods of isolation,” Solaris Cancer Care CEO Francis Lynch said.  

“Our services, from courses, counselling to acupuncture, give them a space to rest, reflect and receive the support needed to help live well with cancer” 

Former patient Rhianne Miller, Solaris Cancer Care’s 2021-2022 Patient Ambassador, remembers how the complementary therapies helped her develop a mindset to persevere against breast cancer. 

“I started doing energy work, massage, reiki, healing touch, acupuncture, meditation, adjusting my diet,” she said.  

“I learnt early on that mindset is 90% of the battle and your body will get you through anything.”  

Solaris Cancer Care continues to expand services with a nurse supporting its Pilbara centre together with a delivery of courses and complementary therapies. It also reopened its Great Southern centre this year and aims to increase its hours to meet the surging regional demand.  

“20 years ago, the word ‘complementary therapy’ was ostracised in the medical profession. Now, it has become a critical support service to cancer treatments and helps reduce treatment side effects and symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression,” Dr Joske said.