There are not many people who can put a positive spin on a cancer diagnoses, apart from Eve Williamson. She believes it’s a chance for people to reconnect with themselves, see the world a little differently and challenge themselves in life. She believes, “You can survive cancer”.
Compassion is a rare trait these days. Passionate, maybe. Dedicated, yes. But compassion? Well, that is something different, something special. Eve Williamson is compassionate, there is absolutely no doubt about that – some might even go as far to say the Nambour volunteer is a Saint, but you have to learn a little more about her to find out why.
You see, Eve has dedicated 20 years of her life to complete strangers who are overcoming one of life’s toughest battles – cancer. She is not caring for these people in the nurse-mother-carer kind of way, but as their foundation of knowledge, their wealth of information, their holistic hero who has spread her arms around more cancer patients than she can count.
Her motto, put simply is, “You can survive.”
“When you find out you have cancer, it’s like your eyes are opened and you grasp on to life and the hope of life like anything you will ever do,” says Eve. “People search for help, they want information, but most of all they want support and we offer all of those things here.”
Here, as she points out, is Cansurvive – a support and information service for those who are (or were) challenged with cancer. It offers awareness of the benefits of holistic, non-invasive cancer therapies, nutrition and diet, as well as information on orthodox treatments.
We didn’t want it to be all about feeling sorry for yourself, but about how you can improve your life and live it to the best of your ability.”
“Our aim is to offer a place of hope and uplifting support, creating a window of light into the world of healing, where the word “terminal” does not necessarily have to be viewed as a death sentence,” says Eve.
Nestled in dense forest just outside Nambour CBD, the Cansurvive head office is like a safety beacon for cancer patients, offering a warm cup of coffee, a comfy lounge and a library to bury your head in. It is here that Eve connects with patients from across Australia and around the world, researching and helping locate access to clinics and treatments in their area.
Before our interview had begun, the evanescent Eve had paced around the Cansurvive house to light candles, turn the kettle on and press play on some soothing music – all the while spilling the beans on her various projects, including the impressive 20th anniversary celebrations, which were held in August.
“We are all volunteers here,” she announces, proudly. “For me, I’m always learning, always finding out something new. Things have changed here (in Australia) since Cansurvive was started. Back then, the whole idea of holistic healing for cancer patients was frowned upon.
“Now, we are seeing more and more people turning to holistic treatments, or even try a bit of both, because the benefits have become more obvious, and we now have research to back it up.”
Eve’s story of how Cansurvive came to be is both heartbreaking and courageous, having survived cancer herself, she not only carries the scars of her treatment but the daily reminder of her quest to help others discover non-invasive cures.
“My personal challenge with cancer occurred in 1990 when living in Brussels, Belgium. I was planning a return trip to Australia for my son Mark’s wedding when I found out. I had been experiencing flashing lights in my left eye and decided I better have it checked out,” Eve remembers.
“The eye specialist told me, if I were to fly, there was a chance I would lose my eyesight due to a detached retina. So here I was, a healthy, fit and life-loving individual being stopped in my tracks with what I was led to believe was a detached retina!”
Little did Eve know however, there was a devastating melanoma growing behind her left eye, causing the retina to move and detach.
She remembers being told the news following a scan at a Brussels hospital. “I am sure all cancer patients think, ‘who me, why me? I am healthy and well, this just can’t be happening, they have got to have made a mistake!’”
Eve goes on to say how she now realises her emotional outburst is similar to how many people react when hearing of a cancer diagnoses, as she has learnt throughout her years at Cansurvive.
Unfortunately, Eve’s cancer diagnosis meant she would have to spend her son’s wedding day in a hospital bed thousands of kilometres away, following an operation which involved inserting a tumour-eradicating gold plaque behind her eye that would work its magic until the tumour died – an operation she was assured would not damage her eye or her sight.
The invasive operation was followed by laser treatments to remove cataracts which had formed following the surgery, lens replacement surgery and posterior chamber intraocular lens (PCIOL) implantation, which Eve says was an incredibly painful operation that would cause temporary blindness in her eye – or so she was told.
“My sight has never returned,” says Eve. “Not to sound cliche, but the whole experience was a bit of an eye-opener because after all of this, it put me on the path to where I am today and for that I am eternally grateful.”
One of the major turning points for Eve was meeting well-known healer Matthew Manning at a workshop and convention in Hong Kong in 1992.
“That weekend turned my life around. I had been to the specialist that morning before attending the workshop, the news had been anything but uplifting,” says Eve. “Dire warnings were issued about my reluctance, and indeed, perhaps bloody mindedness, about having my eye removed and replaced with a coral-like implant. I just could not accept that avenue of treatment. Even although the predictions were fearful something in me knew there had to be a better way.”
For Eve, Matthew was to prove that to be so. In just two days spent on his retreat, the swelling in Eve’s eye had calmed down and the nausea caused from her medication had all but disappeared.
Her doctors couldn’t believe it either, telling Eve her tumour looked as though it was “melting away”.
“The meeting with Matthew Manning proved to be the catalyst in my life, pulling together the holistic picture, and clearly defining to me that the healing journey is mostly within one’s own control,” she says.
In 1993, Eve returned to Australia following the death of her father and her marriage breakdown. Moving to the Sunshine Coast, she began searching for a support group to continue her holistic healing journey but instead met David Hurst, a Buddhist meditation master who, still to this day, is her inspiration and mentor.
David and Eve met during a healing workshop on the Sunshine Coast. They become close friends and shared a common interest and desire to open a support service for cancer patients searching for information and advice on holistic healing practices.
“There were support groups, but nothing in the field of holistic therapies and nutritional advice, it was a blank page and it needed filling – so we filled it.”
After much planning, Cansurvive was registered in 1995 – sadly, a month later David passed away.
Even although the predictions were fearful something in me knew there had to be a better way.”
“David died of a brain tumour, but he was as funny and as uplifting as the day I met him all the way up until he passed,” remembers Eve. “Although he is not physically here, his spirit is with Cansurvive every day. He is very much a part of everything we do, everything we work towards and everyone we see.”
Since then, Cansurvive has grown from a small support group in Caloundra to a network of holistic healers and information guides throughout the world.
“We didn’t want it to be all about feeling sorry for yourself, but about how you can improve your life and live it to the best of your ability.”
In those early days, Cansurvive became such a popular choice for cancer patients that Eve had to relocate from Caloundra to a four-acre homestead at Maleny, and then to the current home at Nambour.
A Cansurvive house has also been established in Kuala Lumpur, which is run by doctors who have embraced the holistic healing practices.
“When I talk about it, which I will be doing a lot of this year given it’s the 20th anniversary, it’s incredible how far we have come,” says Eve.
“I believe holistic healing practices have a long way to go but everyday more and more people are embracing it or are seeking out information. The future is bright and forgiving, as long as we keep embracing what is possible.”
Congratulations Cansurvive of your 20th anniversary – may there be many more years to celebrate your work and dedication to spreading hope and awareness for cancer patients.