One month of sobriety brings demonstrable benefit for cancer patients

One month of sobriety brings demonstrable benefit for cancer patients

While many may lament the thought of going without a drink for a month, results of people committing to the Dry July challenge have taken shape at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

A collaborative effort between not-for-profit organisation the SolarisCare Foundation, members of the John Curtin Leadership Academy, Masters Home Improvement and Dry July has resulted in the Foundation’s service users – cancer patients and their carers – being able to enjoy a purpose-built outdoor garden.

For years the SolarisCare Foundation had wanted to renovate an existing, but badly dilapidated, outdoor garden area to give patients a much-needed place of solitude for reflection and relaxation.

However, lack of funds and the necessary manpower meant the Foundation was unable to develop the garden.

That changed as a result of supporters committing to the Dry July challenge in 2013 and 2014 and raising more than $250,000 for SolarisCare.

With funds set aside for development, the organisation approached the John Curtin Leadership Academy (JCLA) with a pitch for a group of its participants to lead development of the project.

Masters Home Improvement also helped support the project by donating materials and labour.

Three months after the six-member JCLA team took on the project the garden has been completed and opened to patients.

The benefits of providing cancer patients with therapies which complement medical treatment, including relaxation and stress reduction, are significant. For example, a Canadian study found that stress reduction and emotional support provided to distressed breast cancer patients resulted in better cell maintenance 1.

Head of Haematology at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and founder of SolarisCare Foundation, Dr David Joske, said patients needed a tranquil location to cope with cancer diagnoses and treatment.

“There are times patients simply need to get away to take some time out for themselves – this time of solitude and reflection has been proven as effective in enhancing treatment,” Dr Joske said.

“Previously our patients had no dedicated space where they could just sit and reflect. This has changed now thanks to people’s willingness to give up alcohol for just one month and the JCLA team’s great leadership.”

JCLA participant and logistics manager of the garden project, Matt de Klerk, said it was an honour to help create the much-needed infrastructure.

JCLA participant and design coordinator of the garden project, Tyler Morgan, said it was a challenging experience which made it all the more rewarding.


“Working on this project has been an incredible experience; difficult and frustrating at times, but with some amazing successes. We are all so proud to be part of this – something that will last a long time and provide relief to so many people.”

SolarisCare chief executive David Edwards said providing a dedicate space for patients reflected the organisation’s dedication to care.

“One of the key features of SolarisCare Centres is that they become communities of care within the cancer space. A safe home for patients and their families. A community garden is a fantastic extension of this ethos, and the fact that so many community organisations such as Dry July, JCLA, Masters and North Metropolitan Health have come together with this common focus is really exhilarating.”

An official opening will be held at the new garden space on August 6th.