Grace Gawler - Helping You Navigate the Cancer Maze

About Grace Gawler

Grace Gawler: The woman behind the Gawler Story

Grace Gawler: The Beginnings of a Life of Service

At 21 years of age in 1974, I became a proactive caregiver to a co-worker/ boyfriend who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the femur that resulted in his right leg being amputated. 

The following year he became very ill and was deemed palliative with a short life expectancy when his oncologist presumed he had a recurrence of bone cancer. A biopsy was not performed but he became critically ill with mysterious symptoms.

His condition deteriorated rapidly and unbeknown to us or doctors at the time, but later confirmed; he was diagnosed with advanced TB. According to an expert familiar with TB, the TB was evident at the time of his diagnosed recurrence. These 2 concurrent medical conditions muddied the waters. The story is complex, but he survived.

During the 1970’s cancer support groups were non-existent. Being a sole caregiver was a lonely existence. The experience of closed doors and minds and lack of supportive care became the driver for us sharing the knowledge gained on the cancer journey with others.

At the outset, this was by way of support groups led by both of us and a phone-based help service I provided from home for cancer patients,

Our Cancer Support Groups were an Australian first and were soon to be followed by my vision for creating a country retreat, the Yarra Valley Living Centre.

My vision was realised with financial support for a land purchase from another family who had personal experience with cancer, the Edgelows. The Centre became the home of the Gawler Foundation. Four children arrived and I studied and qualified in Natural Therapies/Herbal medicine. Life was full!

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The Centre functioned well for many years. However; when it moved further away from our original story; compounded by irreconcilable differences with management, I resigned.

In 1997, during my early 40’s it was my turn to become a patient following unexpected complications from surgery, hysterectomy & prolapse repair.

Overnight my world turned into a medical nightmare. This was made even more complex as I had recently experienced marriage separation and divorce. Now with a life-challenging and life-altering colon condition, caused by loss of nerve function, I could no longer empty my colon. Horrendous years followed.

Many surgical attempts were performed aimed at restoring colon function. A colectomy and surgical removal of a large section of lower small bowel, and Ileostomies colostomies to rest my remaining 30 cm of colon; all failed. However; the colectomy clearly saved my life!   

I researched possible diagnosis and solutions with an oncology colleague in Australia and a friend who was a gynaecologist in Rotterdam. With their support, I travelled to Rotterdam for a successful innovative treatment.

I underwent an experimental world-first “bionic implant” (sacral neuromodulation). No more ileostomy or colostomy bags but a device that pulsed at 5-6 volts! Since then, the device and electrodes have had to be replaced several times overseas.

Years passed, then breast cancer knocked at my door. Not just one type of breast cancer, but 3 separate histological types; solid papillary carcinoma, invasive mucinous carcinoma, & infiltrating lobular carcinoma! All at various stages, each of these cancer types showed specific genomic differences in their nature, and behaviour.

So here I am at almost 70, having undergone 4 breast cancer related surgeries including a mastectomy plus 24 gynaecological and associated colon surgeries. I survive & thrive to tell the tale. I remain in service to others.

The Grace Gawler Institute represents all that I have learned during my almost half a century of providing cancer services.

More importantly; as a veteran of these diverse life experiences; I appreciate first-hand the reality of walking in the shoes of both caregiver and patient.

Today, I specialise in providing patients with cancer navigation and personalised Survivorship Care Plans.

My personal journey has led me to forming invaluable professional relationships with some of the world’s leading surgeons, oncologists, researchers, hospitals, cancer immunologists, innovative radiation therapies, diagnosticians, and interventional radiologists to name a few.

These relationships help you the patient to access some of the world’s best cancer treatments.

I authored my autobiography, Grace Grit and Gratitude, in 2008. Available in soft cover and eBook.

Footnote: My profiles can be found on Researchgate.net and Academia.edu. I am a member of the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS). I work across multiple cancer disciplines focusing on QoL and well-being for cancer patients. 

For a timeline of my professional career milestones and more, scroll page.

 

Helping patients safely navigate the Cancer maze
Grace Gawler almost half a century helping patients navigate the cancer maze

Grace's Memoirs and Milestones

“Grace Gawler’s memoirs, Grace, Grit and Gratitude kept me reading well into the night.  The book is written in an easy style that rewards the reader with insights into Grace as a woman, mother, wife, carer, healer and pioneer of the original supportive care movement for cancer patients in Australia.”  by Eve Hillary

“A uniquely Australian story, Grace brings alive the 1950’s Australia of her childhood.  Her love of animals drew her into vet nursing.  She teams up with a young vet and they set up a seemingly idyllic Victorian country vet practise.   Almost immediately after their romance develops he is diagnosed with a usually fatal type of cancer.  Their relationship unfolds in the shadow of his illness. Later their marriage becomes the fertile ground from which Grace discovers the depth of her ability to love and to heal.

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Meanwhile Grace has grown into a beauty and comes to the attention of a modelling agency. She forgoes lucrative modelling opportunities in order to remain her boyfriend’s full-time carer, they married when he had a few weeks to live. In time, he becomes well again and for a while, they flourish and are further blessed with four children. Their journey into his healing and their joint establishment of the Gawler Foundation is alone worth reading. But what was originally a lifeline for Ian comes at a price for Grace.

When Ian leaves the marriage, Grace descends into her own life-and-death battle with a life-threatening condition and near destitution.  Alone, she undergoes over sixteen surgeries while struggling with the day-to-day challenges of being a single parent to four children. Her ordeal imposes many losses including her position at the Gawler Foundation.  Few would have survived her hardships, but Grace always drew on a mysterious hidden reserve – the same one she used to heal others.

The rest of the book shows how Grace healed herself and reclaimed her identity. It reveals, perhaps for the first time, her unique contributions to the Gawler Foundation – and how she has subsequently forged her own solo career in supportive cancer care as a healer and author of self-help books for cancer sufferers.  Perhaps her biggest achievement is founding cancer support in Australia. Many health professionals are involved with cancer sufferers, but none offer ongoing support and the unique healing that Grace has pioneered over the past thirty years.  

Not merely an autobiography of a unique Australian, this book offers useful information and deep insights for cancer sufferers, their carers, family and friends. It shows how seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome and the miracle of healing is revealed in a way that people can experience it, reproduce it and derive inspiration from it.

I finished Grace’s book late on Saturday night; that night I dreamt about the country practice animal stories Grace had vividly told, and for a night I was in her life. I woke up just before her more demanding challenges came in the story.  I think it’s fair to say that her book was engaging.  Ernest Hemmingway said once: ‘Courage is Grace under pressure.’  Courageous is not too strong a word to describe this woman. 

At the very least, this book is a good yarn with a ‘happy ending’, as Grace is happily re partnered. At most, it’s an awe-inspiring Australian story that will improve supportive cancer care in this country.   It is certainly however, a story of redemption – well worth the read. “

Eve Hillary is former freelance medical writer and research analyst on issues pertaining to health care, environmental health and the ways in which globalisation erodes Democracy. She has authored two books, Health Betrayal and Children of a Toxic Harvest. She lives in NSW and is now a health consultant and author who passionately pursues issues pertaining to global wellbeing.

Grace Gawler's Milestones

1974: Aged just 21, Grace became sole carer of a critically ill cancer patient who survived against the odds. (Still alive in 2022)

 

1980: Based upon personal experience with supporting a cancer patient, co-founded the Melbourne Cancer Support Group and The Gawler Foundation – Yarra Valley Living Centre -Yarra Junction Victoria (1985)

·         Recognised as a pioneer in the field of supportive care, CAM and cancer.

1979-1987: 4 years intensive study – then Graduate of Dorothy Hall College at distinction level in a broad range of Natural Therapies. Qld Institute of Natural Science – Diploma of Basic Sciences.

1978-1984: Four children born – busy years!

1991: Created gender specific support groups and residential courses for women with cancer and breast cancer – an Australia first. The Cancer Council later adopted the support group model.

1994: First book published Women of Silence- the emotional healing of breast cancer- a best seller for its genre. Reprinted UK 2003. 

1995: Women of Silence printed in Dutch language.

1996-1999: Invited to be a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Women’s Health Victorian government complementary medicine by the Hon Marie TEHAN.

1994-1995: New Zealand – promotes and leads first residential programs for women with cancer & breast cancer – Auckland

 

1996: Resigns from Gawler Foundation; unhappy with their changing direction and irreconcilable management issues.  Creates ‘safe’ Supportive Care practice for women with cancer – Ellimatta Women’s Health.

 

1997: Presented a Grand Round for Graduates and Doctors Monash University Medical Centre: A privilege as speaker usually given to medical specialists. Subject: The importance of emotional support for women with breast cancer.


1997: Marriage separation, divorce, concurrent with life challenging medical condition.

 

1998: Receives the inaugural Rotary International Jean Harris Award for services to Women’s Health; South Pacific Region


2002-2005

2002-3: Following surgical complications (1997) Grace undergoes successful world first experimental surgery in The Netherlands. 

2003: Promotes & leads first residential programs for women with breast cancer; The Netherlands. Pro-bono work whilst in long recovery from surgery

2002-2003: BBC radio interviews throughout the UK including Libby Purves, BBC Radio 4 London (4 million listeners).

2003: Invited Presenter, workshop leader for the London and Hereford Haven Trusts, the Helen Rollason HEAL Trust, Chelmsford Essex, Bristol Cancer Help Centre (now Penny Brohn Centre) 

2003 Invited keynote speaker – Penny Brohn Memorial Lecture London.

2003Invited to work in association with Oncology Professor Karol Sikora, Harley Street London.2004-2005:

Settled in Brisbane, Training practitioners in Supportive Care Medicine.

 

2005: GEM Psychotherapy Method. Named and supported by Dr Ilana Rubenfeld USA (RSM TM) with whom Grace trained. Dr Rubenfeld personally endorsed Grace’s extension of the work that she had pioneered and named it GEM.

 

2005 in Brisbane – Extended work into wellness – Key focus – Use lessons learned from illness to promote wellness 

 

2005 Member of and writer for Spa Asia and many other journals

2005 - 2016

2005: Assisted Reiki Australia Professional Standards Team training module: Providing Services for People with a Life Challenging Illness (module HLTCOM509A). Now included as an elective in many qualifications including the Health Training Package for use nationally. 2008-2022 – still Patron for Reiki Australia.

 

2005: Invited member to the International Advisory Board Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Elsevier Science Direct and in print. Articles published The British Medical Associations “Holistic Health” Journal.

2005: Speaker at the prestigious European Association for Cancer Education – 18th Annual Scientific Meeting University of Central England Birmingham, UK. Topic: Breast Cancer and Supportive Care.

2007: Presents Keynotes & Workshops at major Health Summits, Thailand and Manila. introduces her Wellbeing Model to the Global Spa Industry.

2007: Keynote Australasian Spa Conference Sydney. Speaker replacing Olivia Newton John who attended the event.

2008: Invited patron for Reiki Australia.

 

2010: Published in Medical Journal of Australia and reviewed in Australian Doctor 

2010: Established the Grace Gawler Institute for Integrated Cancer solutions, Qld; a health promotion charity for expanding her cancer patient services, including support for male cancer patients with her partner, Pip Cornall.


2010: Converts her books to eBook format for worldwide distribution.

2011: A funding grant provided by Aurizon enables the institute to establish Prostate Mates website and services. Delivery of prostate cancer services in rural Australia.

2012: Grace and Pip invited to an innovative private oncology clinic in Germany. We offered a specialised service, travelling with patients to Germany, providing guidance and support. 

 

2012: Grace and Pip provided intense guidance for patients who wished to seek treatment overseas because they had no treatment options. Connected patients with hospitals and Clinics where medically validated treatments not yet available in Australia could be accessed.

2014: Ceased the service when a referred clinic failed to implement our requested changes – better management & capping of patients’ fees. 

2014: During this time, on a sponsored trip, Grace met with leading German cancer specialists in University hospitals to explore what they could offer cancer patients. 

A visit was also organised to the Swiss Bio Strath (Strath) production plant on a quest to further authenticate the products benefits.

2014: Grace and a specialist GP create a dedicated practice for cancer patients on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

2016:  Specialist GP retires. Grace continues collaborations with Gold Coast oncologists, Imaging groups, hospitals, radiotherapists in Australia.

2016: New initiatives help many patients achieve Optimal Health Restoration. Includes many stage 4 and palliative patients whose survival outcomes exceeded clinical expectations.

2016: Brain Cancer without Borders initiative established, forming a global alliance with brain cancer specialists.

2016: Grace creates unique cancer navigation plans, later called Survivorship Action Plans providing 10 or 15 hours of dedicated continual services at bulk cost.

2016: Brain Cancer without Borders initiative established, forming a global alliance with brain cancer specialists.

2017- 2019

2017: Grace develops a strong scientific liaison with an Australian based genomic laboratory and oncologists who can refer patients to Genomic diagnostic services. She recommends patients discuss Genomic testing with their oncologist to assist with Survivorship.

2018: Name change. Grace implements a name change for the Institute to the Grace Gawler Institute for Cancer Survivorship and Research. The change to include ‘survivorship,’ reflects the large number of our late-stage cancer patients who survived & thrived despite their poor prognosis. 

The inclusion of ‘Research’ in the new name indicates our aim to conduct research into these successful late stage ‘survivorships’ and with the permission of patients and input from their treating doctors; publish our findings.

2018: Survivorship Care plan: Terms of service was updated, and new additions were made to the Grace Gawler Institute website to reflect changes.

2019: Sponsored medical research trip to Taiwan and Singapore. Taiwan – University of Taiwan- Visit to a nuclear medicine facility – providing experimental brain cancer treatment.

Met with the Taiwanese distributor of Japanese functional foods and an abiotic gut health supplement to gain more in-depth knowledge about products already imported and used by our patients in Australia.

Outcome of travels: By visiting the source and place of manufacture of complementary medicines recommend by GGI and used by our patients, we confirmed our confidence in research evidence and quality control of these products.

Singapore: Meetings with a colorectal surgeon, oncologists, radiation therapy team at two hospitals with a view to furthering second opinions and referrals for our patients who need specialised surgical approaches. We gathered cancer support information during hospital visits to look at supportive care systems.

2020- 2022

2020: Covid 19 year. Despite challenges including lack of volunteer and support staff, Grace guided the Institute to provide extended patient services; a challenge; given referrals overseas were ceased due to travel restrictions. During this period, Grace spent 50% of her time providing free advice for desperate patients who could not travel overseas or (at times) interstate, for treatment.

Extra training relevant to Grace's Cancer service - Lectures and Workshops

Grace Gawler’s profiles can be found on Researchgate.net and Academia.edu Grace is a member of the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS). 

1992 – 1994: Lectures Atended: Hilton Head Island South Carolina, USA National institute for the Clinical application of Behavioural Medicine (NICABM). 
Post Workshop Training intensives attended, Hilton Head Island South Carolina>
USA National institute for the Clinical application of Behavioural Medicine (NICABM).

1992: Jon Kabat-Zinn PHD: Integrating Mindfulness into Behavioural Medicine (1)
Lawrence LeShan PhD: Author: Cancer as a Turning Point.  (1)
David Lee-MEd LSAC – therapeutic storytelling

1993: Dr Emmett Miller, visualisation methods to assist patients.
Ernest Rossi PhD, the Psychobiology of Hypnotherapy (Ericksonian Hypnotherapy).
Ilana Rubenfeld, introduction to Rubenfeld Synergy Method (RSM TM)
Lawrence LeShan PhD: Author: Cancer as a Turning Point. Beyond technique: The Nature of Healing in a Therapeutic Relationship (2)

1994: Dr Emmett Miller – 2nd training: visualisation methods to assist patients.
Ilana Rubenfeld Art of Self Care (2)
Jon Kabat-Zinn PHD. Integrating Mindfulness into Behavioural Medicine (2)
Lawrence LeShan PhD: Author: Cancer as a Turning Point. (3)
David Lee-MEd LSAC – therapeutic storytelling – use of metaphors to assist emotional, psychological and behavioural change.

1995: Commence 3 x year intensive training New York: with Dr  Ilana Rubenfeld USA (RSM TM) – Body Psychotherapy for 2 years.  Incorporates Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, the work of F&L Perls (Germany), Gestalt, the neuropsychology, psychotherapy and other techniques to help patients integrate mind and body and deal with effects of trauma.

1995: Further workshop/studies:
David Lee MEd LSAC:
Ericksonian Hypnotherapy, Therapeutic Language.
Ericksonian hypnotherapy and therapeutic storytelling
Dr Rob McNeilly:
Ericksonian Hypnotherapy, Therapeutic Language.

Awards and Special Mentions

Awards and special mentions:

1998: In recognition of her unique contribution to breast cancer & women’s health, Grace receives the inaugural Rotary International Jean Harris Award, in recognition for outstanding service to the development and progress of women in society. Australia & South Pacific Region.

1996-1999: Ministerial Advisory Committee for Women’s Health: Invited member by the Hon Marie Tehan, Minister for Health (Vic) to join the new Victorian Government. Ministerial Advisory Committee for Women’s Health. The committee was chaired by Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, AC, DBE, former Australian politician who served as a Senator for Victoria from 1971 to 1987.

Grace's contribution to Cancer Care and Support

Medical:

1995: Speaker: Ground Breaking Question of Hope conference, University of Bristol.
1995: Introduces intensive training for leaders of active cancer support groups. The Netherlands.
1995: Speaker: the Hospital As a Temple. Personal transformation through crisis. An international working conference for healthcare providers. The Netherlands.

1997:  Speaker: The first complementary and Supportive care medicine practitioner to present a Grand Round Lecture, Austin Hospital, Melbourne.
1997-2005: Grace has personal medical crisis following surgical complications (1997), undergoes world first experimental surgery in The Netherlands. (2002-3)

2005: Invited to the advisory board of  The International journal “Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice” – online (Elsevier Science Direct) and print media. Published in the British Medical Association “Holistic Health” Journal.

Medical:

2005: Speaker: Birmingham UK, European Association for Cancer Education (EACE) Scientific Key Presentation, research on a therapeutic breast cancer support group model. 

2010: Published in Medical Journal of Australia on importance of accuracy of a high profile cancer story. Also reviewed in the Australian Doctor.

2010-2021: Grace’s Key focus – evolving a not for profit organisation, the Grace Gawler Institute for Cancer Survivorship and Research. Builds professional liaisons with cancer experts worldwide, provide extra services for patients

Grace continues up-skilling with online trainings…
Vessel van der Kolk, trauma specialist. Series.
Singapore Sarcoma Webinar: How Cancer Evades the Immune System.
Webinar The Scientist Magazine
2021: What our microbiomes must teach us about our health and disease.

Explore your Survivorship Possibilities Now

Grace Gawler