Two staff members have collaborated on a handout addressing communication challenges when a friend or family member receives a cancer diagnosis.

Would you know what to say and do if a friend or family member was diagnosed with Cancer? An educational and entertaining mini-musical entitled ‘The Silk Rags Project’ is addressing that very issue whilst raising funds for The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

The musical composer is Dee Handyside (School of Human Services and Social Work) who wrote and recorded the soundtrack during her own cancer treatments.  Having been combined with a one-act play by cancer patient Briohne Sykes, this has already received some notable awards and press coverage.  It is currently being marketed to community theatre groups throughout Australia for 2019 productions.

Dee said “The project’s aim is to enable community groups to collaborate on a performance which will entertain, educate, start conversations, have fun and raise funds.   The underlying message is regarding communication strategies when a friend receives a cancer diagnosis – from the inappropriate to the awkward.   During our original production, Briohne and I realised that the audience, cast and crew needed a resource that would assist them with starting such conversations.”

Dee approached Dr Vanette McLennan, Senior Lecturer in Rehabilitation Counselling, for assistance in creating a one-page handout.  This has now been trialled with cancer patients and survivors as well as members of the public who have not had any experience of either the disease or assisting anyone with a diagnosis.

“We hope the handout will help people to feel more confident in opening up the communication channels after a loved one’s cancer diagnosis. Everyone is different and will require individualised support, and our tips aim to help people navigate this with compassion”, Dr McLennan said.

Professor Ian Brown FTSE – CEO ACRF said, “Thank you to everyone involved in ‘The Silk Rags Project’ for supporting the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and congratulations on all your success to date.  As we work towards our vision to outsmart cancer, it is important we continue to address all apsects of the disease including how we communicate with each other”.

Staff and students are encouraged to share ‘The Silk Rags Project’ website with friends who are members of any community theatrical group within Australia.