Champion with a cause
So Ms Sparks and five other cancer survivors travelled to Port Macquarie to visit its new cancer care unit in a bid to get an insight into some of the issues a similar facility in Lismore might face.
"We don't want the money spent and mistakes made," Ms Sparks said.
"We just want it done right, so people can get the treatment they need in the timeframe they need it."
The biggest issue for the group was the need for at least two radiotherapy machines to be in operation when the facility opened, to ensure that patients were able to receive treatment within 21 days of it being decided they required it.
The group also saw a need for a patient transport plan, so people living out of town could get to the facility without hassle.
"You don't want to have to worry about transport. You usually need about 33 days of treatment, and that is a lot of travelling," Ms Sparks said.
The need for affordable accommodation was also identified.
Ms Sparks said one of the women in the group had taken the issues raised to the radiotherapy unit's planning committee for consideration.
Cancer Council NSW Far North Coast regional programs co-ordinator Diana Fisher said any planning for such a facility should include transport and accommodation.
She called on the State Government to release its radiotherapy plan for NSW, which she hoped would "spell out" such things as provisions for transport and accommodation for patients, and how many machines would be available.
"They've said we will only get two if we can prove the need for it. There is definitely a need," she said.
The State Budget included $12.2 million for Lismore Base Hospital's long-awaited $27 million radiotherapy unit, allowing work to start on the centre by January next year, with an expected completion date of 2010.