FOR more than three years, Rare Cancers Australia has been lending a hand to cancer sufferers across the nation.
The organisation's founders Kate and Richard Vines started out in June 2012.
They now have offices in Bowral, Sydney and Melbourne with eight people working across the three sites.Kate is a survivor of a rare thyroid cancer for more than 20 years.
In 2011 her oncologist suggested they set up a support group for people with rare cancers.
"We set it up with the idea of providing support for patients as they went through their cancer treatment and providing them with help," Richard said.
"Sometimes they just need to understand what sort of cancer it is they've got.
"They get diagnosed with something they can't even pronounce."
As well as helping patients at ground level, Richard said they often needed to be a voice in Canberra where politicians tended to focus more on common cancers and diseases.
"We have a six foot poster of a person who has lots of these cancers with little arrows pointing to them.
When we launched our first report on the state of rare cancers Senator Eric Abetz was in the room and I remember him saying I had no idea that there were this many types of cancer.
"There are more than 200 types of rare and less common cancers that Kate and Richard have helped hundreds of people deal with over the past few years.
They have set up a website called Sick or Treat that raised $1.4 million in about 18 months.
On this website people can sponsor individual patients and it has been a great success.
One boy has raised over $260,000 and another patient has raised more than $190,000.
"The drugs when they need to be prescribed that aren't on the PBS are horrendously expensive," Richard said.
Since Rare Cancers Australia began, Kate said it been an eye opener to the public to see just how many different types of cancer there were and how many people were affected by them.
A new fundraising campaign was launched in November last year called Southern Highlands Community Cancer Fund.The aim of the fund was to ensure money raised locally stayed in the area.
"You want it to be close enough to you that you know it's helping someone in your community," Richard said.
"Cancer at any time is a challenge but if you're out of the big cities it's a much bigger challenge.
There's travel expenses, time off work (and) all sorts of things."
While some patients may benefit more from Sick or Treat, Kate said the Southern Highlands Community Cancer Fund would also help those without a large support network.
"Because we live here we want to support the local community as much as possible," she said.
"We thought it would be really good to set up a fund here where local money that's raised in the community stays here to support local cancer patients.
"What we're hoping is that this will be a template we can roll out throughout other regions and areas."
Kate said the initial figure for the fun was $100,000 but hoped to be able to increase that and that local businesses would jump on board as sponsors.
Visit either https://www.rarecancers.org.au/campaign/20/southern-highlands-community-cancer-fund or https://www.sickortreat.org.au to make a donation.