Dungas lighten the load of Aussie battlers

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Whether you call them clangers, clunkers, rust buckets or simply just dungas … hundreds of Fraser Coast residents get behind the wheel of their beloved rattly rally cars every year for one exceptionally good reason!

The Dunga Derby is run every year to support local families and individuals with life-limiting medical conditions or those who need help from a situation beyond their control.

Under the umbrella of the Rally for a Cause charity, those Dunga Derby teams raised a record $260,000 last year and a massive $1.3 million since its inception in 2015.

That money has since provided support to over 100 local Fraser Coast families in their times of crisis.

Each month, Alive Magazine will publish a Dunga Derby column with a focus on the families who have been recipients of this vital support.

Those who have thrown a dollar in a dunga tin, attended events or even sponsored a car, will read about the incredible difference those life-changing donations have made to the recipients.

It’s usually not until something drastic happens in our life that we stop and think about how lucky we all are.

You can be sure that after someone close to us falls ill or dies, you will hear someone else say how time is short, life is precious, and we need to make the most of it.

In this edition of Alive we express our Gratitude in a number of ways for all things we are grateful for.
In this instance, I am grateful to every single person involved in this outstanding charity.

They are changing the lives of people who are battling through circumstances totally out of their control.

Below is a story about Gemma Lightbody, who is the mother of Connie – the first recipient story we published in Alive.

Gemma and her husband Ben have endured more than anyone could humanly bear.

The Hervey Bay family have suffered the loss of a child, had major problems with their second pregnancy and had daughter Connie diagnosed with a complex heart disease.

Now, Gemma herself has been battling bowel disease and her recent diagnosis of breast cancer.
Rally for a Cause has been supporting the family financially so that they can concentrate of Gemma’s treatment.

Gemma’s story

Gemma and her family have been through so much that most wouldn’t believe!

At 25, Gemma and her partner Ben lost their first child Austin at 28 weeks due to an undiagnosed bowel disease.

Her official diagnosis of bowel disease came a few months after losing Austin in February 2016.
Then on April 4, 2017, Reuben was born at 5lbs 10 ounces, at 37 weeks, due to him not growing anymore.

Gemma battled with her bowel disease all the way through her pregnancy with lots of changes in medication to make sure the pregnancy lasted until birth.

Connie was then born on May 9, 2020, with various complex and rare heart conditions. She had two major surgeries in the first seven months of her short life.

Unfortunately, this time the stress of pregnancy had taken its toll on Gemma.

After five years of trying to get her ulcerative colitis under control and trying every medication available for it, she went in for surgery in November 2020 to hopefully remove the disease.

The procedure involved making a j-pouch with her small intestine.

She awoke after the 10-hour long surgery only to be told the operation didn’t work and that she would have to live the rest of her life with an ileostomy bag.

So, 2021 came along and the family was optimistic that things could only get better.

It started out well with the family heading out on the camping trip they had always dreamed of.
Then in February, more bad news struck the family!

Gemma found a lump on her left breast and went for an ultrasound, which led to a biopsy that confirmed Grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma.

Another lump was also found which came back as a different type of breast cancer.

Now Gemma and her family face another battle with having two primary breast cancers to treat.

Gemma is currently undergoing five months of chemo, and when her body recovers, she will undergo a double mastectomy to have both breasts removed followed by radiation treatment.

Despite all this, their family and wonderful support crew remain positive and offer whatever they can to help from babysitting to making meals for the family.