Chun Fong and Vanessa Donati
 Oct 30, 2017

A gift today creating hope tomorrow

In 2016 Jena Riordan, a patient herself with acute leukaemia, made a brave decision that would provide hope for patients living with cancer in the future.

A patient in the Palliative Care ward, Jena decided to include the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ Centre) in her Will. She bequeathed $1.4 million - the proceeds from the sale of her house to the Clinical Haematology Department at the ONJ Centre. She wanted her legacy to benefit patients diagnosed with acute leukaemia and other related haematological disorders by supporting new research and diagnostic tests.

A visionary woman, Jena’s generous gift is helping patients today. 

Haematologist Dr Chun Fong and the Haematology Department see around fifty patients every year diagnosed with acute leukaemia. Often terribly unwell, their type of cancer can be aggressive requiring immediate and intensive treatment. 

For patients with acute leukaemia the level of care they require can be complex. As Dr Fong says, “Patients need multiple rounds of chemotherapy involving multiple drugs, often delivered at varying schedules. This involves a lot of coordination of care and resources.”

Jena’s bequest is enabling the ONJ Centre to create a team dedicated to patient care for people diagnosed with acute leukaemias. 

This team includes three newly created positions providing care and undertaking a body of research that will directly benefit patients, now and into the future.

Leukaemia Nurse Coordinator 
The Leukaemia Nurse Coordinator will coordinate the often complicated day-to-day care of patients. Providing communication between the ward, day oncology, outpatients department, pathology department, radiology and other specialties, the nurse will be a reassuring and calming voice for patients.  

Clinical Trial Nurse Coordinator 
A crucially important position, the Clinical Trial Nurse Coordinator will assist our clinical trials centre to undertake less well-funded, collaborative group and investigator-initiated trials,   potentially leading to more access to medications that have been proven to be effective overseas.

Tissue Bank Scientist 
This role will help the ONJ Centre establish a library of patient samples that will allow researchers to add to their greater scientific knowledge by bridging the gap between the laboratory and the patient bedside. As Dr Fong says, “This is very important in determining whether a new therapy might work. Having primary patient samples allows us to test those samples and also we can look back at what makes the leukaemia cell tick – and what we might be able to find in the future that helps us to turn these cells off.”

Dr Fong recognises that Jena’s generous gift will have tremendous outcomes for patients. 

“At the end of the day patients are our ultimate goal. We’re trying to improve the lives and outcomes for people that have this devastating disease. 

One of the reasons why I’m a clinician-researcher is there is a patient associated at the end of it and when they benefit from what you’ve done, it’s a rewarding situation, you’ve made a difference.” 

You can create a lasting legacy by making a gift in your Will just like Jena. Many people have thought to include a gift to the ONJ Cancer Centre in their Will because cancer found a way into their lives. Their gifts – whether small or large – play a huge part in helping families living with cancer. To learn more contact Bequest Manager Sevi Skaleris on 03 9496 5361 or email or visit our website.