Kathy Tsaples is not only a great cook, the author of the sold-out editions of Sweet Greek cookbook, and a smiley face that greets you at Melbourne’s Prahran Market. She is also a breast cancer survivor and former Peter MacCallum patient.
“I can’t waste the fact that I’m still here. And I can’t take it for granted either.”
It was a difficult battle with breast cancer that gave Kathy the courage to pursue her dreams and focus on a lifelong passion of hers – making and selling traditional Greek family food.
That was the first time she understood the meaning of the words ‘Life is too short’.
Having gone through 18 months of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments to cure the aggressive breast cancer she was diagnosed with, she says it’s nice to know that you had the best chance that you could possibly have if you are faced with cancer. And that’s what she is grateful to Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation and its staff for.
The cancers that still can’t be cured today is why Kathy wholeheartedly accepted to join the Peter MacCallum fundraising cause.
It is Kathy’s inspirational story that will help Peter MacCallum raise the funds to support the specialised technology and resources that Peter Mac’s team of 400 cancer researchers rely upon to undertake their work.
With little alternative funding available for this type of equipment, Kathy’s work is incredibly important for Peter Mac.
“I can’t waste the fact that I’m still here. And I can’t take it for granted either,” Kathy tells Neos Kosmos.
“They approached me, out of thousands of people who were so sick. I can’t just ignore it and I can’t waste it, I have to put my energy into helping and making sure they raise this money.
“The aim and objective for us is to raise $1 million. I’ve been there for quite a long time, and probably I was chosen because of the extent of my treatment, and also the fact that I took my life pretty much in my hands and tried to go forward, do positive and instrumental things, and tried to be somebody who passed down the legacy to a younger generation. They saw that I could be an inspiration to other sufferers,” Kathy says.
As well as being the only public hospital in Australia that is solely dedicated to cancer, Peter Mac is the home of Australia’s largest cancer research group. Its researchers work across all cancer streams, and investigate new and better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancers.
“Donations from campaigns like this one are crucial to our researchers’ work. While our internationally recognised cancer researchers have great success in securing competitive project grants, these grants rarely fund the state-of-the-art technologies and resources needed to undertake these research projects,” Carl Young, fundraising director of Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation told Neos Kosmos.
“This campaign is helping to support the core technologies upon which all our researchers rely – essentially, it’s helping to give some of the brightest minds in cancer research the specialised equipment they need to make new discoveries.”
In an example of the amazing work made possible with the help of donations, last October Peter Mac researchers found a way to stop the immune system destroying cancer fighting T-cells using a drug called anti-PD-1.
“Had it been available for me, my journey would have been easier,” Kathy draws on her personal connection with the fundraiser.
From her own experience, she says she doesn’t want people to become complacent and ignore the signs.
“I had had a mammogram done only three months before I found my own lump. I ignored it, thinking it was just a cyst. The rest is history – it was a lump, cancer and it was aggressive. Many surgeries, 18 months of therapy, and I am still on medication that I have to stay on for another 10 years. It’s not an easy journey.”
Before she was diagnosed, it was Kathy Tsaples’ dream to write a cookbook of Greek recipes. The old generation was getting older, and with them the recipes were dying, and skills that her own generation didn’t bother to learn.
“It was when I was confronted with my own mortality, that I realised – life is really short.
“If I die, who is going to do for my boys what my mum was doing for me? It was that moment that I realised that the only person who could do it was me. I had to make sure I was strong, that I was going to put up a good fight, so that I could get through it. I was lucky enough and blessed enough to go through that, with the help of Peter Mac, its doctors and counsellors.”
After recovering from cancer, Kathy Tsaples managed to write the book and have it published, and, for a ‘simple person’ – as she puts it, the book has had some great success. Now she is planning and dreaming of writing another one.
Kathy’s successful story will now serve as inspiration to people to donate, so Peter Mac researchers can continue to build on cancer breakthroughs and save lives.
To donate, please visit Kathy Tsaples’ page https://foundation.petermac.org/appeal or call the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation on 03 9656 2700. To get a tax deduction before the end of financial year, make a donation before 30 June.