Cameron family raising funds for Mater Hospital cancer clinical trials in memory of beloved father

LOVING: Peter Cameron's daughters, Megan Baird and Lisa Eaton, at the Calvary Mater Hospital. Picture: Marina Neil
LOVING: Peter Cameron's daughters, Megan Baird and Lisa Eaton, at the Calvary Mater Hospital. Picture: Marina Neil

Doctors gave Peter Cameron a grim life expectancy of no more than six months when his aggressive cancer stopped responding to conventional treatments.

Defying the odds, he lived a further 18 months after being added to a medical oncology clinical trial at the Calvary Mater Hospital, allowing Mr Cameron time to spend with his family, meet his grandchildren and travel. The Lake Macquarie family man died in September aged 65.

Mr Cameron's eldest daughter, Megan Baird, said the extra time was precious to her family, which she said would not have been possible without the clinical trial.

"It definitely prolonged his life from where he would have been," Mrs Baird said. "It was the quality of his life that got so much better. The energy he did have could go to spending time with us and meeting grand kids rather than his body growing or fighting the cancer."

Mr Cameron is survived by wife Cathy, his three children - Mrs Baird, son Chris Cameron and daughter Lisa Eaton - and six grandchildren, two of which were born last year before his death.

To show their appreciation for the Mater hospital's oncology team, their work and research, the Cameron family are now raising awareness and funds for the clinical trial.

A GoFundMe has been established by the Cameron family, endorsed by the Mater, with a target of $10,000. If the target is reached by December 19, the Cameron family will match it dollar-for-dollar, which will go to the Mater's medical oncology clinical trials, which are self-funded.

As of Monday, $5400 had been raised through the Remembering Pete - Oncology Clinical Trials Unit GoFundMe page.

"You know the drugs you take have been tested but it just never occurred to us it was tested on people, on volunteers, until we were part of it," Mrs Baird said.

"Clinical trials is the only way drugs make it to market and make a difference in the world. We really wanted to raise awareness and money for the amazing work the Mater is doing. Everyone we've come across in the Mater has just been incredible, so compassionate, caring and dedicated. We want to support them."

Mr Cameron's first skirmish with cancer, found in his kidney, came 30 years ago. Following surgery and treatment, he was cleared. In 2015, after his retirement, Mr and Mrs Cameron moved to Swansea from Sydney.

Shortly after Mr Cameron's 60th birthday he began to "age really quickly", Mrs Baird said. He was "very tired" and "really frail". It wasn't until two years ago that doctors discovered that the cancer had come back in a "spectacular way" and was "really aggressive". He was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer.

"He had some radiation treatment and they tried to do surgery but because it had been growing in and around all sorts of veins and arteries and his spine, they couldn't do any," Mrs Baird said. "It was they type of cancer that didn't respond to chemo or other types of traditional treatments that are out at the moment."

It was while he was in the Mater being treated for blood poisoning that Mr Cameron's file piqued the interest of the oncology team, and was added to the clinical trial.

Kim Adler, manager of the Mater's Medical Oncology Clinical Trial Unit, said the team was appreciative of the Cameron family's support.

"The unit has been involved in many pivotal clinical trials resulting in new treatment options for people with a range of cancers, from breast and bowel cancer to supportive care of patients receiving chemotherapy," she said.

"The results of clinical trials today may improve treatment for people who develop cancer in the future. We are fortunate and grateful to have tremendous support in the community from people such as Peter and his family who want to help us continue to help others."

More information about the Mater's research and clinical trials at research.calvarymater.org.au

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