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Meet Robyn Cameron

Senior Lecturer Griffith University and National Breast Cancer Foundation Ambassador.

NBCF ambassador Robyn Cameron (Photo by Katherine Griffiths)
NBCF ambassador Robyn Cameron (Photo by Katherine Griffiths)

Robyn Cameron is a Senior Lecturer at Griffith University, a dedicated National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) Ambassador and Australia’s largest community fundraiser for breast cancer research. She is the driving force behind the Pink Ribbon Cup Race Day, an iconic Gold Coast event engaging local businesses, sponsors, and volunteers who wholeheartedly support the cause. Her incredible dedication has raised over $1.3 million for breast cancer research. We chatted with Robyn about her incredible fundraising efforts through the iconic Pink Ribbon Cup Race Day, her passion for the Gold Coast community, and her aspirations to continue impacting breast cancer research.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I have been a Gold Coast local for 33 years. I am originally from Sydney and grew up in Bondi Beach but I now call the Gold Coast home.

What do you love the most about the Gold Coast?
I love the Gold Coast’s gorgeous weather, the laid-back lifestyle and the variety of things to do. You can be on the beach one day and in the Hinterland the next day. We moved here to give our children a beautiful lifestyle and they are now raising their own children here.

Robyn Cameron in Griffith mode (image supplied)
Robyn Cameron in Griffith mode (image supplied)

Tell us a bit about yourself
I worked in the finance industry in Sydney for 17 years. After moving to the Gold Coast, I decided to enrol in an Honours Degree to enhance my CV; my intention was to get a job back in the Accounting Industry but then I almost fell into academia.

As I attained First Class Honours, Griffith offered me a position if I enrolled in their PhD program. It was too good an opportunity not to grab it, and that’s how I ended up in Academia in the Department of Accounting, Finance & Economics. During my academic career I have also undertaken a plethora of leadership roles.

Outside of academia, I am a passionate ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and I am their largest community fundraiser across Australia. Over the years I  have had many fundraising hats, including launching the Gold Coast Mother’s Day Classic in 2009; chairing the NBCF Gold Coast Volunteer Committee; NBCF Fundraising Committee and the NBCF Gold Coast Global Illumination Committee.

Robyn Cameron, NBCF Ambassador (image supplied)
Robyn Cameron, NBCF Ambassador (image supplied)

Can you share with us the inspiration behind the Pink Ribbon Cup Race Day and how it has evolved over the years?
It was after my second diagnosis of breast cancer that I decided I wanted to do something to lessen the impact that a breast cancer diagnosis has.

I was 38 when first diagnosed with breast cancer, I had children aged five and eight years and was studying for a degree, so life was busy. I prided myself in how healthy I was and I thought I was too young for breast cancer; in fact, the only risk factor I ticked was being a female. As the cancer was found early the prognosis was good; the treatment was surgery and radiation.

Fast forward nine years, and my GP found lumps again; I was totally shocked. Naively, I thought that if it was cancer again my treatment would be the same as before but this time the prognosis was not as good and I received the strongest treatment.

The second diagnosis had a much bigger impact on me mentally; as a mother I went through strong feelings of guilt. And so, it was the mental impact that made me want to do something that would not only lessen the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis but also lead to a cure. I chose to fundraise for research as I believe it is research that will ultimately find a cure that will have far-reaching outcomes.

It was research undertaken before my diagnoses that has meant I am here today sharing these words with your readers.

Robyn Cameron with volunteers at Pink Ribbon Race Day (image supplied)
Robyn Cameron with volunteers at Pink Ribbon Race Day (image supplied)

What makes the Pink Ribbon Cup Race Day a standout event in the Gold Coast community?
The Pink Ribbon Cup Race Day is such an iconic Gold Coast event because it brings so many members of the Gold Coast community together. And the buzz in the lead up to the day—I love it when I’m out shopping and in a change room hear ladies talking about their outfits for Pink Ribbon Race Day!

It gives casual workers jobs on the day in the function venues, generates business for local retailers with people buying new outfits etc. and I especially love the opportunity it gives our university students to give back to the community through volunteering. It’s wonderful to see many of these volunteers return again year after year and some are now on our Pink Ribbon Race Day Committee.

It is especially inspiring to see how Pink Ribbon Race Day has evolved. My first Pink Ribbon Race Day raised $18,000; in 2022 the Race Day raised over $216,000 and with the 2022 expansion encompassing other Queensland racing venues totalled $259,000. My NBCF pursuits have raised over $1,335,000 to date.

Pink Ribbon Race Day Cup presentation (image supplied)
Pink Ribbon Race Day Cup presentation (image supplied)

How do you engage local businesses, sponsors, and individuals to contribute to the event’s success?
The Pink Ribbon Race Day has grown into Australia’s largest community fundraiser for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and this is purely because of the immense support we receive. The response to support requests are typically replied to with, ‘We would love to support such an important cause’, which is incredible.

The Gold Coast Turf Club has been an avid supporter and it is our partnership that has enabled the event to grow as much as it has. We have many loyal supporters that lend their support year after year. Local businesses provide services for our fundraising on the day; businesses take up sponsorship opportunities and of course, all the people that attend our NBCF function.

And of course, the team; we are all volunteers, many with full-time jobs, studying and managing families. We don’t have an office of people to do tasks, we do them ourselves to maximise the fundraising and Pink Ribbon Race Day would not be possible without our volunteers’ support.

Robyn Cameron with Jockeys at Pink Ribbon Race Day (image supplied)
Robyn Cameron with Jockeys at Pink Ribbon Race Day (image supplied)

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for future fundraising initiatives and the impact you hope to make in the fight against breast cancer?
I was reminded recently of the importance of breast cancer research when a woman that has helped at fundraising events had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was just 38 years old and told me her oncologist said that if she had been diagnosed with this type of breast cancer ten years earlier, her prognosis would have been terrible, but thanks to research, her prognosis was positive. It’s such a clear sign of how important fundraising for breast cancer is.

There have been a lot of important discoveries, but there is still much to be done. My priority would be to find out why breast cancer metastases in some women and why in others it doesn’t.

When I was diagnosed the first time at age 38 I already had children so I didn’t have to worry about the impact of treatment on my fertility, but my heart truly goes out to the young women diagnosed that haven’t started their family. Research is trying to discover a treatment that doesn’t impede a woman’s fertility.

Robyn Cameron, NBCF Ambassador (Photography by Katherine Griffiths)
Robyn Cameron, NBCF Ambassador (Photography by Katherine Griffiths)

What are your Gold Coast favourites?
Cafe/coffee spot
: My current go to for my double shot cappuccino fix is South Coast Coffee Co. at Isle of Capri and I love to team that with the crunchiest of Danish pastries from Harris Farm Markets.
Restaurant: Hideaway Kitchen & Bar without a doubt! The food is just the best!
Bar or place for a drink: I don’t really do bars, I’m more of a cappuccino person
Beach: North End beach but I also love the feel of Burleigh, it reminds me of Bondi Beach because of the pine trees.

How do you choose to spend your days off? 
During the months of May to September, most of my weekend time is taken up working on Pink Ribbon Race Day. Otherwise, Sundays are spent with family and love to catch up with friends over a good coffee and relaxed bite to eat.

Robyn Cameron (image supplied)
Robyn Cameron (image supplied)

Pink Ribbon Race Day is always a sell-out event, so if you’re hoping to go this year make sure you grab your tickets quickly. See event details here.

Meet Dr Shabnam Gujadhur

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied)
Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied)

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer just after her 30th birthday in March 2022. She was busy working as a junior Doctor at Gold Coast University Hospital when suddenly overnight she found herself a patient instead.

Since her diagnosis, Shabnam has made it her goal to help others by spreading awareness about ovarian cancer – a silent killer and ignored killer. As both a doctor and a woman with ovarian cancer, she wanted to use her voice more poignantly, to raise funds for future research.

We chatted to Dr Shabnam about her diagnosis, her work with the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) and how her experience has changed her perspective on life and work.

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied)
Dr Shabnam Gujadhur with friends (image supplied)

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved to the Gold Coast from Melbourne almost 6 years ago. Looking back over those years, I have formed life-long friendships and amazing memories. I have fully immersed myself in the local culture, very much different from Melbourne. The Gold Coast is a beautiful city that has it all, from the coffee culture, exciting new cafes, the beach lifestyle, surf breaks, hiking spots, to the rolling hills of the Hinterland. And I am fortunate to get to live it every day.

What do you love the most about the Gold Coast?
What I love the most about the Gold Coast are the little things about living here that make it instantly feel like home. Growing up in Mauritius, some of my fondest memories were the days at the beach, swimming in the blue lagoons. The beaches here and the smell of the ocean take me back to those days. I enjoyed being able to walk down to the beach after work or on my days off. Besides, the down-to-earth and friendly nature of the locals, makes this city more special. There is a sense of connectedness.

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur with her parents (image supplied)
Dr Shabnam Gujadhur with her parents (image supplied)

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Mauritius, a small island, off the Eastern Coast of Madagascar, known for its stunning white, sandy beaches and coastline.

At the end of high school, determined to follow in my parents’ footsteps to become a doctor, I moved to Melbourne to undertake a Bachelor of Laboratory Medicine. Indeed, Melbourne coffee was enough to convince me to stay upon completion of my undergraduate and I subsequently accepted a position as a medical scientist at a public hospital. Though I enjoyed my work, the spark I had inside me to become a doctor could not be extinguished. I subsequently made the big move to the Gold Coast in 2017 to study Medicine at Bond University where I met some incredible people as well as my partner.

After graduating from medical school, I could not think of a better place to start my career than on the Gold Coast owing to its lifestyle. I have for the past two years been working at Gold Coast University Hospital as a junior doctor, rotating through various specialties and it has been a journey of discovery, education and lots of emotions.

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur in hospital (image supplied)
Dr Shabnam Gujadhur in hospital (image supplied)

Can you tell us about your experience being diagnosed with cancer last year?
Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 30 and at the very beginning of my dream career, was nothing I ever expected. A diagnosis that wormed its way into life’s front row without a ticket. I went from having a normal life to being a cancer patient overnight. The series of events have been embedded in my mind. I went from my GP to an ultrasound, seeing a gynaecologist, then surgery the next week, being inflicted a crushing defeat, seeing the gynae-oncologist the same evening, followed by another surgery the next week for the removal of my ovary and tube. It so happened the same day I was going through my staging surgery that my aunty, diagnosed with metastatic cancer only 6 months ago, lost her battle. It has indeed been a harrowing journey.

As I went from one surgery to another, I was forced to confront the various shades of perhaps, maybe, hopefully and hopefully not. The certainty I once had about my life turning out as planned was gone in a heartbeat. Whilst my colleagues were deciding which specialty of medicine they liked or planning their holiday, I was having to make life-changing decisions in face of the maze of issues.

My future became my parents’ greatest concerns. Nonetheless, I considered myself blessed to have had my family, all my closest friends, my partner and many others, by my side to help me shoulder all my pain, emotion, and dread. The past 12 months have undoubtedly been a long walk in a dark tunnel.

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied)
Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied)

Do you think your medical training helped you deal with the diagnosis?
Perhaps in some way. Being in the medical field helped me probably understand the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment options and what the 10-years surveillance would represent for me. I would not say it helped me “deal” with the diagnosis. I was so focused on the to-do-list: monthly blood pricks, booking the regular scans, attending endless appointments, egg freezing cycles; and hence failed to process the diagnosis and to acknowledge my true feelings. The psychological fallout was the hardest. It felt like hitting rock bottom and it took me months to accept my situation, with the help of a psychologist, along with the support of my loved ones.

How has your perspective on life and work changed since your ovarian cancer diagnosis?
Receiving a cancer diagnosis was like a wake-up call. I used to be so career-driven and I have always put work first before everything. However, in one minute I lost control of my own life. This journey has allowed me to appreciate the things that really matters most to me in life. I chose to be happy, to spend time with my loved ones and to live every day to the fullest. I chose to be persistently optimistic despite knowing that no one can offer a guarantee that the cancer will never return. I chose to live in the moment rather than worrying about what the future bodes.

The leap from being a doctor to a cancer patient has also given me a unique chance to appreciate the endless challenges patients face. Admittedly, I now have more empathy and a greater appreciation of the value of each human being underneath the hospital gown.

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied)
Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied)

What advice do you have for other women who may be going through a similar experience?
In face of the impossible odds, take it day by day and keep persevering. It is challenging and at times disappointing but remember you do not have to fight this alone. Rather, have the courage to reach out for help if you are falling apart. When I received my diagnosis, I did not know what to do next both personally and professionally. I did not want to break down in front of my family. I reached out to support groups – doctors who have gone through similar situations and the love and support I received was just uplifting.

I am a firm believer in what Ruskin once said: “The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it”. By that I mean, don’t look at what you have lost or gained by going through this experience, rather reflect over how strong and resilient you have become.

How have you used your personal experience to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and the importance of early detection?
Due to the rarity of my tumour, it took months to get a final diagnosis and during the whole process, the future seemed blurry. I told myself back then that I wanted to be remembered for someone who fought for a future where no woman’s wellbeing will be threatened by ovarian cancer; rather than being remembered as someone who lost to her battle to ovarian cancer. This fuelled inside me a need to advocate for women’s’ living with ovarian cancer, for those lost to ovarian cancer and for future generations of women.

Whilst I considered myself lucky that my cancer was detected at an early stage, it definitely should not come down to luck. Every woman deserves the chance of an early detection test.

I knew that being a woman with a lived experience and a doctor, I could share my story to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and the need for an early detection test. I reached out to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) an independent body dedicated to funding national ovarian cancer research and was asked to serve as an OCRF Community Ambassador. Nearly 12 months later, I’m very proud of the various fundraising events I have been involved from Gold Coast Marathon Fun Run, Witchery White Shirt Campaign and Frocktober.

I have also written a narrative piece, titled ‘On the other side’ for Australian National University (ANU) Link and Grow blog regarding my cancer diagnosis. It was heart-warming and empowering as individuals from outside my friends’ circles reached out to me with such a positive response. I was very honoured to be recognised and awarded by the Australian National University (ANU) for addressing gender inequity in health and medicine through storytelling, for that blog story.

Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied courtersy of Georg Jensen)
Dr Shabnam Gujadhur (image supplied courtersy of Georg Jensen)

Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Georg Jensen and how it came about?
It had barely been a few months being part of the OCRF community ambassador program and I got an email from the team regarding an opportunity to be involved in the upcoming OCRF X Georg Jensen Heart Pendant Campaign. I was thrilled and said yes immediately. I was absolutely not prepared for this whole experience, but each and everyone behind the scenes and the other incredible women I featured with made me feel so comfortable on the day. I remember walking onto the set with my heart pounding and the feeling of a lump in my throat. As I read my lines from the auto-cue, I could not hold back my tears. The OCRF representative who flew in for the day as well as the Gritty Pretty Productions Team knew how hard this was for me and they were just incredibly supportive. It was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can read more about the OCRF X Georg Jensen Heart Pendant Campaign here.

What are your Gold Coast favourites?
Café/coffee spot:
Daymaker Espresso in Miami makes the perfect roast. My two other favourite coffee spots are Foster & Black and Tarte. For a laid-back brunch, my top picks will be definitely Bam Bam Bakehouse, Tarte and Daymaker famous Chilli Eggs.
Restaurant: Etsu Izakaya – I love Japanese food and Etsu always delivers a variety
Bar or place for a drink: I’m a teetotaler, however I do enjoy socialising with friends at the Burleigh Pavilion because of the view
Beach: Definitely Burleigh

How do you choose to spend your days off?
My days off are to refresh and recharge. Being a very active person, I usually fit in a workout or an outdoor run most days of the week. However, on my days off, I try to sleep in and go to the gym a little bit later. I also like to spend those days with my partner since we both have busy schedules. It usually involves either a brunch at our favourite local café, a walk on the beach or grabbing fish and chips and heading down to Kirra for sunset. Lastly, I try to handle those unavoidable errands and chores.

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