Unfortunately in Australia, ‘personalised treatment’ isn’t currently offered as standard care for cancer patients.
It refers to when individuals receive a tailored treatment plan according to the particular genomic characteristics of their disease, offering the chance to rid false lines of treatment entirely.
“We’re still on an old, trial and error system that wastes billions in ineffective medicines and costs many patients their lives. It’s wasteful, ineffective and needlessly costs so many lives,” said Samuel Johnson.
“I wish people could understand that personalised medicine allows us to treat our cancer patients with the right drug, first time, every time.”
“If you get cancer, your treatment outcomes shouldn’t be affected by things like status, income or geography. Everybody deserves a fair shake. The best treatments shouldn’t just go to those who can afford them, and it’s already happening in the personalised medicine space.”
So many of us have been touched by The Big C in different ways – it’s a journey that truly tests the strengths of any who encounter it.
For Logie-winning actor Samuel Johnson, cancer has yielded immense life-long impacts. His sister Connie was diagnosed for the first time at age 11, again at 22 and for a third with breast cancer, at age 33.
Since her passing in 2017, Samuel has worked tirelessly to build his movement, the charity Love Your Sister founded upon one simple ethos – vanquishing cancer with joy.
Established in 2012, Love Your Sister was initially established with a goal of raising $1 million to go directly towards cancer research.
In 2013, Samuel cycled around the country on a unicycle visiting communities to raise awareness for cancer research – he spent 364 days battling it out against the intense Aussie terrain to spread awareness and raise money, which is astoundingly bold.
They started off with breast cancer, but now fight “all cancers for all patients, no matter where they live”, and since then have raised over $13 million. The entirety of Australia was enthralled by Samuel’s challenge, fostering what he now describes to be a “million-strong village” in the process.
“We harbour nearly one million people on social media in what we call our ‘village’ and we meet face-to-face often. We’re made up of 84% women and mums, and the fellas are starting to clue on now, which is lovely.”
One million people dedicated to the battle against cancer sounds pretty damn huge, however, according to Samuel, there are still a variety of barriers in the way of achieving a widespread understanding of just how integral personalised treatment is.
Love Your Sister are currently partnered with Play For Purpose – an initiative in which money raised from raffle tickets supports great causes. You can choose to support hundreds of charities and help them achieve their goals. There is also a top prize of $250,000 gold and hundreds of fantastic prizes up for grabs, making it the ultimate win-win for supporters. By purchasing raffle tickets in support of Love Your Sister, you will be aiding their quest to provide personalized cancer treatment for all.
For Samuel, cycling around the country made it abundantly aware that face-to-face communication is key in educating others about the intricacies of cancer, with the largest challenge being a lack of understanding around personalised treatment.
“Tell anyone you know who has cancer to discuss personalised treatment options with their oncologist. The more we ask about it the better.
“The most challenging aspect is science communications because science has been losing the war, so to speak. Personalised medicine, as an example, is something we need to know about, but is very hard to get across in a sound byte rich environment.”
“Getting people to listen is tough, getting people to understand the nature of the problem is even tougher.”
Samuel’s experiences with cancer and loss were more public than most, and he has since channelled this courage into leading a nation-wide charge against cancer – a feat that showcases an utmost passion for the cause.
“My sister went through 3 different cancers across 3 different decades and the level of support and care she received was incredible. We are amongst the most generous countries in the world and the support she received reflected that.”
“It was tough missing the wake to be on ‘The Project’ in a different state, but Connie demanded I raise at least a million directly off her death, so I dutifully hit the PR trail upon her passing.”
“That postponed the grief, but I’m pretty good with grief now I’m older and have seen a few loved ones through.”
At the core of everything Love Your Sister sets out to achieve is kindness – it’s about community support, and fighting a battle that continues to impact so many lives.
“All we need is love. At the centre of love is family, and we fight to protect every family from the perils of cancer,” Samuel explained.
“I have forged real bonds with thousands of families in hundreds of communities, and after that first unicycle ride, after meeting so many unsung heroes out there, I was never going to turn my back on them.”
“Communities everywhere supported me and my sister so meaningfully, that I’ll die trying to honour them. They say the cause chooses you and I kinda buy it. This thing is way bigger than me and I’m proud to be a small part of a big army.”
In just under 10 years of operating Love Your Sister, its core values and message have undeniably reverberated throughout Australian communities, with Samuel noting he sees its impact subtly trickling into other’s actions daily.
“Often I’ll go to pay for my fuel, only to be told by the attendant that someone has paid for it already. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chased after people in cars trying to thank them for filling my tank.”
“Every day, everywhere I go, somebody talks to me about her, about the impact she had on their lives, and it just melts my heart every day.”