The journey to finding the new “norm”. We were now in a battle. With boxing gloves on, it was time to fight.
Greg, being a fit and healthy 50-year-old man, became concerned about a lingering cough. Without a GP (as he never got sick), he visited the local walk-in GP service. After a thorough check-over and multiple tests, Greg was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer connected to his exposure to asbestos as an apprentice in his teens.
The world could have opened up and swallowed us whole. Life as we knew it, would never be the same.
Our “norm” before his diagnosis was compressed with so much excitement and passion for life. We were working hard on our careers, making time for camping trips away, spending time with family and friends, cruising on the Harley on warm sunny Sundays through the hills, creating dinners together, curled up on the lounge in the evenings to watch a movie, working on his drag racing Holden Kingswood and trying to beat his best time down the quarter mile.
That “norm” soon changed. We were now in a battle. With boxing gloves on, it was time to fight.
Our life became a calendar full of treatment and doctors’ appointments, battling through the maze of information overload, constant conversations with family and friends providing them with the latest update. We were not going to take this battle lying down. Even though Greg’s prognosis was limited (12 months), we continued to move forward with our dreams, projects and ideas.
Selling our small little home for a large house and property not only provided us with the opportunity for me to care for Greg at home as his illness took over, but it also provided us with a lovely, peaceful garden for those quiet, self-reflection moments. Our new home was filled with a constant flow of people – family and friends visiting for a cuppa and chat, with some staying for days, trades to ensure the modifications for easy wheelchair and hoist access were completed, as well as the invaluable Silverchain palliative medical team – setting up a nurse’s station at our computer desk.
And then the “norm” after Greg’s passing – the silence, the house was suddenly empty – just me and my dog Rusty. The void of Greg’s physical presence, not hearing his voice or being able to physically embrace him was heart-wrenching. Friends and family reached out and provided offers of help, but I was numb. I didn’t know how they could help. I was still processing the last 22 months of Greg’s (our) journey.
With an estimated time of 12 months, we had tried to squeeze everything in, not really knowing if there would be enough time. The balance of living and enjoying life intertwined with trying to prolong it with treatment had been a juggling act.
Planning and having open discussions ahead of time was priceless. This not only gave Greg peace knowing that he had been heard, but it also gave me clarification and strength at the time I needed it the most. Making decisions about his palliative care and wishes for his ashes to be scattered at his favourite fishing spot, had all been discussed thus effortless to action.
I thank Greg wholeheartedly for his strength to discuss the inevitable, his teaching and all the loving memories.
My advice to anyone who going through this would be as the journey changes, embrace the “new norm”, stay strong to work through the fight / battle, and always try and find time for joy. No matter how small, celebrate and enjoy those precious moments.
Two proud daughters share their stories as they walk alongside their mum with mesothelioma.
When Mum was diagnosed with mesothelioma, it was very unexpected. Unlike many people, we were aware of this disease as one of my uncles had died from it.
Mum is a very strong woman with a deep faith. Even though she was sad and had many tears (as we all did), she is a fighter. It was hard watching Mum go through chemo, but I wasn’t surprised how much she endured as she is a tough one! At the moment, Mum isn’t keen about more chemo as it’s making her sick. We respect her choice.
We have all become more aware of the dangers of asbestos that are still in our community. I have certainly talked to a lot of people who were unaware that they could be breathing in the fibres whilst doing home renovations and building demolitions.
I am fortunate to be in a close family with each of us giving support to the other. My hope is for more research into mesothelioma so one day we can find a cure. In the meantime, I will be there for Mum (and Dad) be it meals, a chat, housework, lifts… and lots of love.
I am the proud daughter of Norma, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma over 4 years ago.
A mesothelioma diagnosis was not on the radar when my Mum was suddenly sick back in 2013.
This diagnosis, the effect on her wellbeing and capacity to do all she would love to be doing has, for me, been the greatest impact. The support I have provided during times of acute illness is not a burden and seems to fade with the ebb and flow of the disease and its treatment.
Mum’s capacity for thinking of others has not diminished, just the ‘doing’ has changed a little. A great example of Mum’s doing and thinking is hospitality and friendship to others on the journey of living with mesothelioma.
It is so hard to see someone that has always been so strong being so unwell. We are all so grateful and fortunate that Mum is with us, but I am sad that there are daily reminders of her illness – it must weigh her down. I know she shelters us from these everyday thoughts – always the mother!
It is Mum’s beautiful nature that shines through. Everyone loves her and she has many, many wonderful people in her life. She has always been a generous and thoughtful person, and this is now coming back to her at this stage in her life.
Sometimes I am angry at the companies that made this happen. I am angry that so many more people will be affected. It seems like it was all preventable. Mum has always tried to ‘fix’ everything. Any time someone had a situation or a problem, Mum would always be working away at fixing it, thinking of ways to get it done. I wish her special powers could fix her illness.
I am grateful for having the best Mum. I hope she fights this disease and eventually there might be a cure. It is great that there is awareness and support for people with mesothelioma – thank you to everyone out there that has directly helped my Mum. You are working for a great cause.
Cathy and Sue’s mum, Norma passed in December 2018. Her legacy lives on through the lives she impacted as she continued to put others before herself until the very end.
In this together! Norma was an inaugural member of the Reflections support network. This is her story…
My name is Norma and I was diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 2013. My exposure to asbestos was anywhere between 30 to 50 years ago.
When given the diagnosis, I knew what it was as a family member also had it, but that didn’t make it any less scary. I was 73, had my faith, strong family support and a loving community, so made the decision to accept what was to come.
I had chemo during 2013 and the tumour became dormant. In 2015, it became active again so I opted for more chemo. Chemo is not very pleasant, but it certainly helped me. At present, I am having no treatment, but need my lung drained every 7 to 8 weeks.
I have a good oncologist who I have confidence in, and a supportive GP.
John, my husband, has been with me all the way on this journey. It has not always been easy for him, to take over running the home and cranky me!
Our 5 children, 5 in-laws and 15 grandchildren have been wonderful, helpful, supportive and loving to both John and myself.
In 2014, a group of us got together and, under Barry’s Knowles’ instigation, decided to start meeting regularly. We initially met by word-of-mouth for morning tea. This has developed into a once-a-month gathering, and all agree that it is a great support – a ‘family’ who all have the same disease in common.
Although sickness is no fun, I can see the blessings I have been given. I don’t know exactly what lies ahead or how long I have, but for now I thank the Lord for Faith, Family, Friends and Flowers.
Norma (July 2017)
Norma was given a 6-month prognosis but survived almost 6 years, passing in December 2018. She is deeply missed by all who knew and loved her. Her legacy lives on through the support network she was so proactive in and passionate about.