Battling cancer together

Carly Bertelli’s sister Olivia, right, in 2018 during her chemo treatments, with her mother by her side.

By Steph McNicol

Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea will look slightly different this year due to coronavirus restrictions, but the Cancer Council is encouraging people to host their own gatherings online.

The morning tea is organised through Cancer Council where people can come together to raise money to donate towards cancer research, while also joining in the conversation and supporting each other.

Carly Bertelli, of South Morang, plans to host an online gathering with her fellow staff of Templestowe Valley Primary School where she teaches grade one students.

“Our plan is to host an online morning tea. We haven’t decided on the details yet, but we are thinking staff share something they may have baked via our online conference calls,” Ms Bertelli said.

“We might also ask the students if they bake something to post up a photo on our learning platform.”

Ms Bertelli said the Biggest Morning Tea was an important event because it created a platform which could be used to raise awareness and provide an opportunity for people to come together.

“Sometimes having something as simple as a group of people coming together and sharing for a common cause can provide support to people,” she said.

“The morning tea is a way for others to show their support of those experiencing cancer or carers dealing with family members who have cancer.”

Ms Bertelli’s support of the event comes from her own personal experience with family members who have in the past and still were battling cancer.

“On my 38th birthday, in 2018, I drove my younger sister to see a breast specialist. She had only told me a few days earlier that she had seen her GP because of a lump in her breast,” she said.

“The diagnosis was a shock, not only for my sister but for us as a family. When I heard the words, ‘Yes, Olivia, you have breast cancer’, I was trying my best to stay calm for her.

“From then on it was 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and auxiliary clearance then six weeks of daily radiation. Olivia lost her hair, felt sick, tired and had to stop work.

“Two years later and Olivia is recovered. While her specialist and oncologist don’t like to use the word ‘remission’ we know that she has kicked cancer’s butt.”

Ms Bertelli now her mother’s carer after she was diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

“It is a different mindset when you know it is a parent dealing with this sickness. We are all in this together, my mum, my sister and I, but I am the lucky one,” she said.

“I am the carer, helping mum with groceries, phone calls and any questions she has. That’s all I can do.”

For anyone wanting to organise an online morning tea to fundraise for cancer research, visit before the event in May.