Jeanette Lau Gooey and Lara Lipton

How does teamwork relate to cancer?

By Jeanette Lau Gooey

On 1st February, a Trivia Night was held to raise funds for the Mt Himlung Gutsy Challenge.  Over 200 people attended the event which was held at the Fitzroy Town Hall.

You may have read the previous articles “’Ride Like A Girl’ and my cancer journey” & “My cancer journey and what it has taught me” by Jeanette Lau Gooey, a stage 4 Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST) patient who has been under the care of Associate Professor Lara Lipton since 2013 and more recently Professor John Zalcberg OAM

This is the third article she has written to support Associate Professor Lara Lipton and the Mt Himlung Gutsy challenge team.


What makes a winning team?

Trivia Nights are all about groups of friends, families or workmates getting together and pooling their knowledge in an attempt to outdo competing teams and win.

When I asked a group of my friends to come to the Trivia Night, I never expected that we would have any chance of winning. You can imagine my surprise when our team, LGM and Friends, won the Trivia competition.

How could this be when there were so many teams consisting of specialists in the oncology and medical research fields? Could it be that some of my team had a misspent youth watching old TV series, like “Bewitched” and “The 6 wives of Henry the VIII”, reading gossip magazines, watching too many TV ads, listening to 80s music when we should have been busy studying at university?

Trivia is a game where each person in the team has a knowledge in a particular subject. It may be extensive or quite limited but sufficient to cover a range of questions. However, it takes teamwork.  Teamwork is the ability to work together, to communicate with each other and the ability to encourage and nurture those team members who feel that they are unable to contribute anything of value.

Thinking back to the Trivia Night, I realised that we had an ideal team. Various members had university degrees, extensive industry experience in business and finance, a misspent youth or extensive overseas travel. However, our most powerful weapon was two Year Eleven students named Lucy and Molly.  Admittedly we thought that their specialty would be to answer those “young people” questions about texting and the latest kid’s movies but they surprised us with the extent of their knowledge, maturity and ability to easily communicate with a group of oldies whose ages ranged from 50 to 70 years of age.


So how does teamwork relate to cancer?

Cancer research, treatment and trials require specialists from many different disciplines.  These include doctors, nurses, oncologists, dietitians, radiologists, surgeons, research scientists and a raft of other specialists.

Each individual brings a different level of knowledge and expertise to a team. However, a cohesive team requires good communication, listening to other’s opinions, encouraging new ideas and making decisions based on the expertise of all members. Teamwork is also about more experienced members mentoring and nurturing others in an effort to develop their full potential and become the future leaders of medical research and treatment. This leads to better treatment of patients.


Is there a role for the patient on this team?

After living 18 months with tumours that have grown and spread throughout my body the answer is yes. During this time, my trial drug has managed to stabilise my cancer and given me the ability to lead a normal life.

Having access to a trial drug is a privilege as many others will not be able to do so. Some may also die before the drug is formally approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).   Even then the cost of the treatment may be beyond the reach of the average cancer patient. The financial burden will only be relieved when these drugs are subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

In my view I have a responsibility to help these patients.

I am able to communicate how these drugs affect me from both a psychological and physical aspect. The more information I can convey to my medical team, the better the understanding of potential treatments.

I am well aware that my life now depends on trials to keep me alive as I doubt that I will ever go into remission and that’s okay. Even if a trial is successful in managing my cancer for a short period of time it gives hope that another trial may come along and continue to keep my cancer in check.  When that will end nobody knows but until that day comes, I will take every opportunity to be part of the research that will save someone else’s life in the future. My hope is that this will inspire others to do the same.

The GI Cancer Institute is involved in research for new innovative ideas and trials that will lead to better treatments for patients.

However, in an environment where demand for government funding is very competitive, it is difficult to obtain funding for the types of cancers that the GI Cancer Institute specialises in. This means that the Institute must fund both their Innovation Fund Grant and trials through sponsors or the generosity of the public.

The funds raised from the Gutsy Challenge support the Innovation Fund which provides grants to researchers who are finding new treatments in rare, neglected and low-survival GI cancers.

You can help support the Innovation Fund by taking part in one of the Australian Gutsy Challenge Adventures for 2021.


Kakadu Gutsy Challenge: 8 – 14 August 2021

The trek through the Kakadu National Park will be led by Associate Professor Nick Pavlakis who is a medical oncologist at Royal North Shore Hospital and has been Head of the Clinical Trials Unit since 2001.   The GI Cancer Institute is looking for 6 more people to join this Gutsy Challenge. You can raise funds for much needed research and explore the beautiful Kakadu region. For more information click here  or call Melanie on 1 300 666 769.

I had hoped to take part in the Kakadu Gutsy Challenge but unfortunately the current state of my cancer prevents me from doing so. I am lucky that one of my friends is taking on the Challenge on my behalf.

Find out more about Kakadu


Treasure Road Gutsy Challenge: 20 – 24 September 2021

This is a family road trip which will raise funds for the Innovation fund and also provide support to the rural towns devastated by the bushfires.

Find out more about Treasure Road


You can also support new research by making a donation.

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