Naomi McRae had never even heard of LBC until she unexpectedly was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma just before her 30th birthday in 2010.
“LBC’s Auckland Support Services Coordinator at the time got in touch with me to see how I was going and that’s where my relationship with LBC all started!,” says Naomi.
Having an LBC Support Services Coordinator popping up to the ward or day stay to say hi, drop off magazines and just having someone to talk to who understood what she was going through made all the difference for Naomi, while she was in treatment.
Naomi received the incredible news that she was in remission in August 2011 and she decided to commit to running a marathon to fundraise for LBC and give something back. Her plans were derailed when she started feeling nauseous and thought she was unwell again only to be told that astonishingly she was pregnant. This came as a shock to everyone since Naomi had been told it would be unlikely she would ever be able to have children due to her treatment.
Naomi’s son Lauchlan was born in 2012 and not long after, her second son Owen was born.
Receiving a diagnosis of blood cancer is life changing and for Naomi, it meant she thought a lot about her values and what was important to her. These thoughts led her to a job change within PwC moving from HR into the PwC Foundation where LBC is one of the core charity partners.
This career change saw Naomi learn a lot more about what LBC does and the many ways they are able to support patients and she began to think how she could offer her own support.
“PwC were amazing when I was receiving treatment and I was able to go back to work and do what I felt comfortable with, however I always knew that many other patients were not in as fortunate situations,” says Naomi.
Naomi saw a gap where she could use not only her career knowledge and expertise but also her experience of being a patient to develop information and resources about employment and legal rights for patients dealing with employment situations due to their condition.
Naomi formed a small team of PwC employees and together they developed the ‘Work it out’ programme which covers everything from talking to your employer about your diagnosis through to looking for work after treatment.Naomi then presented this information in workshops at LBC support groups around the country and also at the 2017 Blood Cancer Patient Forum.
When LBC’s first Consumer Advisory Board was formed in 2017, Naomi was asked to join to contribute her unique perspective to LBC’s strategic planning alongside other patients and carers.
“Being on the Consumer Advisory Board has been so eye opening for me. I’ve been able to get a real insight into the challenges LBC faces and it’s been great to be able to give my recommendations to LBC to help them continue to improve and develop their resources,” says Naomi.
While developing the ‘Work it out’ Programme and being involved with the Consumer Advisory Board, Naomi decided to tackle the 1103 steps of the Sky Tower for the Step Up Sky Tower Stair Challenge and raise as much money as she could for LBC with a team from PwC.
Although her family, friends and colleagues were incredibly generous, it wasn’t easy for Naomi to look back on her own diagnosis and share her story with those who didn’t know her at that time of her life.
“It was the hardest physical challenge I had ever done and it was tough re-visiting it all but because I know all the ways that the money helps LBC it really was all worth it,” says Naomi.
Naomi recently learnt about another aspect of LBC when she joined the Leukaemia & Blood Cancer Research Unit Governance Board at The University of Auckland.
From being a patient receiving support, fundraising money to provide support for others through to sitting on the board being able to represent patients and understand how research money is being used felt like a full circle for Naomi.
“It’s nice to be at a point where my own diagnosis doesn’t consume me and where I am in a position personally and professionally to give back and help pave the way for other patients,” says Naomi.
“What I now do at PwC and the work we do for LBC really aligns with my values and it’s a huge privilege to continue working so closely with LBC.”