Piotr and Gosia Broniszewski have shared many things over their 27-year marriage: travelling the world, visits to the beach, countless meals and lots of laughter.
When Piotr was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013, Gosia supported her husband through surgery and chemotherapy. They had three years of remission before his cancer came back. This time, the couple was sharing an experience neither would have asked for – Gosia had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in May 2016.
They still go to the beach every day that they can, but those days are interspersed with twice-weekly visits to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for tests and treatment – immunotherapy for her, chemotherapy for him.
“We are very pleased that we landed here. We thank everybody for helping us, and they are very polite and very professional. We couldn’t be in better hands,” Piotr says.
“We are so grateful to Professor Tattersall. He’s so nice to us,” Gosia adds, joking that “we are like double trouble for him.”
Piotr and Gosia still laugh together, even when talking about their cancer.
“I was a little bit shocked in the beginning. But then I got used to it and started to cope with it. I’ve got experience now, so I’m professional,” Piotr says, causing them both to laugh as Gosia chimes in, “Both of us; we’re professional now.”
With the ease of a couple who have been together for almost three decades, they have adapted to their conditions by taking care of each other.
“You have to give support to each other. And stop thinking about small things because they are really, really small. In life, you have each other,” Gosia says. “Be nice to each other, and helpful. That’s the most important thing.”
Supporting each other is fundamental to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, where we do everything we can to support our patients because we are all part of a larger community, which includes the countless donors who enable us to provide the best care possible for our friends, family and neighbours.
That standard of care includes the many research endeavours conducted here. Gosia is among the hundreds of patients participating in clinical trials with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. These trials are important not only for cancer patients all over the world, but for the individual participants. Studies have repeatedly shown that patients in clinical trials generally do better than comparable patients who are not in clinical trials. One factor may be the hope that participants feel by being part of the trial.
With more than 100 trials happening at any given time, research at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse encompasses countless aspects of treatments, from medication and equipment to techniques, protocols and processes. Every trial is focused on extending life and/or improving patients’ quality of life. The latter could mean refining existing treatments to be less invasive, more accurate or reducing side effects.
In addition to working with partners around the world on trials, biological samples are stored in Chris O’Brien Lifehouse’s cryogenic storage tanks for future study. These tanks can hold almost 400,000 samples of blood, tissue, plasma and cancerous tumours at a temperature of -180° Celsius. In this way, our patients can continue to support research long after their own cancer journeys have ended.