Women living in rural and regional Victoria now have more options for support following a cancer diagnosis. Counterpart now supports all women affected by cancer, meaning that more women can access peer support and a range of online webinars and workshops.
Counterpart, a service of Women’s Health Victoria, has almost 20 years’ experience supporting women with breast and gynaecological cancers.
‘Our vision is for every woman to live well – healthy, empowered, equal’, says Women’s Health Victoria CEO Dianne Hill. ‘We are thrilled to be able to offer quality peer support to the 10,000 women diagnosed with other types of cancer each year’.
Counterpart supports women from diagnosis onwards, helping them find information and services, and providing peer support. Trained volunteers give other women with cancer the space to adjust to their diagnosis. They provide the support and understanding that can only come from lived experience. This support can make a huge difference to a woman’s experience of cancer.
For women in rural and regional communities, opportunities to connect with other women with cancer are especially valuable. One Counterpart service user said, ‘I do feel a little lost in a very rural part of Victoria, where there is no choice of treatments or specialists at all. I have set up a cancer support group in our nearest town but, to date, I am the only metastatic one, so do not have anyone to speak to about things. Attending Counterpart’s workshops with other women has been really helpful’.
Counterpart Peer Support Volunteer Margaret is conscious of this too. ‘As a woman who was born in rural Victoria’, she says, ‘I am particularly aware of the difficulties distance can bring to a woman’s experience of cancer … As breast cancer is not my only cancer diagnosis, I can see the value of the support that Counterpart can provide to women with all types of cancer’.
Manager Fiona McRae says that the Counterpart team has been working with other organisations and services that support different tumour streams, as well as women living with other cancer diagnoses, to prepare for the expansion. ‘It is very important that we aren’t duplicating other services,’ she says. ‘We have heard from many women diagnosed with different cancers, that they really want to be able to talk with someone else who understands what it is like. We want to be able to provide that support and also ensure that women know what other services are available that may help them in what can be really difficult times.’