By Cam Lucadou-Wells
It’s been quite a journey for Denise Lyons – even before she sets off on her 32-kilometre walk from Nar Nar Goon to Hampton Park in memory of her dear sister Anne.
On a blog in recent weeks, she posted touching tributes and photos of close family and friends who have succumbed to the ‘forgotten cancers’, such as Anne and her late father.
She’s been reunited with some of Anne’s closest friends in the process.
Ms Lyons, who was diagnosed with cancer herself six years ago, is trekking on 9 September to mark the 15th anniversary of her sister Anne’s death.
Anne was just 30 when first diagnosed with cancer. She stayed with Ms Lyons during the day after several of her surgeries.
She still loved life even while living with the illness for seven years, Ms Lyons said.
“She loved life even though she did life very tough.”
Both Anne and her father – who died of pancreatic cancer – were those sort of people who “could talk to anyone about anything”.
“They both could talk the leg off an iron pot.”
Ms Lyons, who is a personal assistant at Dandenong Hospital, is hoping to raise awareness and funds for Cancer Council Victoria’s Forgotten Cancer Project.
The project focuses on the less common cancers – ones other than afflicting the breast, lung, bowel, melanoma and prostate.
They receive little research funding and have higher mortality rates – some with five-year survival rates as low as seven per cent.
“I just wanted to keep it fresh in everybody’s mind that funding isn’t going into these forgotten cancers.
“This has to be in your face or we’ll never find a cure for cancer.”
Ms Lyons’ walk, in a way, covers the geographical arc of Anne’s life.
She starts at the Nar Nar Goon milk bar, in front of the home where she and Anne grew up.
And then travels via Pakenham, Officer, Beaconsfield and Berwick to the site of Anne’s funeral – St Kevin’s Catholic Church, Hampton Park.
She’s not daunted by the long road ahead, but looking forward to the conversations with friends and family joining her at various stages of the walk.
“The conversations will be really beautiful, heartfelt and personal.
“When you walk with someone, it’s different to when you’re sitting around the table. You walk forward and don’t look at each other – people reach into their heart and tell you their story.
“They don’t feel intimidated and confronted by that face-to-face contact.”
Ms Lyons only took up walking after her own cancer fight six years ago.
“In the past, exercise and me never went hand in hand.
“It’s something that’s life-giving, especially when you’re walking in the quiet and in the landscape.”
To donate to the cause, go to myownway2017.everydayhero.com/au/annie-s-way