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Tag: family

I have come to realise that Asbestos is everywhere… this is my story

Of all the illnesses that I imagined I might get or have with that occasional pain here or there, mesothelioma was certainly not on my radar. Even when told that was what I had, it was hard to take in. How does a country girl from Victoria, who at 21 years of age moves to Perth, contract mesothelioma?

I am 64 years of age, married with 3 adult sons and I was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma on 31st December 2018. This is asbestos-related cancer that develops in the lining of the abdomen. Somewhere, sometime, I have ingested an asbestos fibre.

The only reason I had gone to see a doctor was that I had lost weight. The diagnosis was a shock! Telling my children what I had and the prognosis was one of the most difficult things I have had to deal with.

When or how I was exposed to asbestos is hard to determine. I do know when I was in Victoria the family home had a garage made out of cement sheeting, more than likely asbestos. It had pieces broken from time to time when the cricket balls or footy were accidentally hit or kicked onto the sidewall. Since moving to WA the only exposure I know of is that my husband worked on water drainage pipes, which we have since found out contained asbestos. Coming home with asbestos fibres on his clothes is the closest we can come to my exposure to asbestos.

When first diagnosed with mesothelioma I was put on a cycle of chemotherapy that lasted 24 weeks, from January 2019 until June 2019. It held my meso at bay, but my body needed a break from chemo. I was in pretty good health after this until April 2020. My mesothelioma had spread into my organs namely the liver. I was once again put onto the same chemotherapy drugs that I was on previously, but I was unable to handle them this time around. I became very sick and weak. I lost a few kilos which was disappointing as holding my weight was something I was always trying to do.

My original diagnosis was from 18 months to 3 years and of course, I was hopeful of the 3 years plus if possible. I have reached that 18 months but been told that I will probably only have a few months now. I am on another round of chemotherapy using a different drug. This has been much kinder to my body so we will see if it helps me at all in a month or so when I have another scan.

Asbestos was something that I was aware as I work with the government education department and removing asbestos from schools is ongoing as the need arrives. In saying this I never felt I was in danger at work or any other place. Probably in hindsight a bit complacent.

I have a son who is in the building trade and making sure he is aware of the dangers of asbestos is something I have spoken to him about. I most certainly do not want him going through what I am at the moment.

People need to be informed of the dangers. Since my diagnosis, I have been informed of the many places asbestos is and it has blown me away. Such a danger to people yet it is everywhere.


Carmel lost her battle with this disease on 8 September 2020.

If you, or someone you know, are suffering the effects of mesothelioma or would like to know more about the work Reflections is doing to reduce the impact of asbestos on the community, contact us today and one of our team will be in touch.

One Last Christmas, We Got Two!

When Mum received her diagnosis in 2018, she was told “make Christmas count” and so we pulled the family together and made a huge day of it thinking it would be her last.

But true to form, Mum defied the odds and we got to celebrate another family Christmas in 2019, on the beach in Albany, the sun shone and more precious memories were made.

Mum, or Nanny Chris as she was affectionately known by many, contracted mesothelioma years after breathing in asbestos fibres as a child when her dad built the family of nine a new house on the farm in Broomehill. Commonly, the material for building at the time was asbestos, and just as commonly, the children played in the dust and off-cuts to fill in their days. It was not until fifty-odd years later we would learn of the devastating effect those playful days had when, at age sixty-one, Mum was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.

Mum was exposed to the deadly material in her home and as a child, and from that moment on, never had a chance of living a long life. She sadly died eighteen months after diagnosis at the young age of sixty-two and one exact half. Even though she was young and fit, the disease was too much for her.

Not every person’s meso/cancer journey is the same and although some questions burn in your head for answers, there are often none to give. For instance, Mum was desperate to know the what and hows about her decline and eventual death, but no one would give her or us a definitive answer. I recognise now why; Mum’s journey and end of life were as individual as she was. Although she was not quite capable in the last six months as she had been in life, she was by no means slowing down. There was no slow decline with Mum, there was going okay, plateaued, then a controlled and comfortable sleep before the end of life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, try not to get caught up in the “what could happen” and live what is happening while you can. That goes for the patient and the family.

It is important for people to hear and share stories of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma to continue to create awareness in the broader community of non-occupational exposure. I had no idea that Mum had played in asbestos as a child or that mesothelioma existed until her diagnosis. Of course, I had heard of asbestosis and the dangers of asbestos, but it was always referenced to a work/professional environment. If we had been more aware and educated, Mum may have recognised or at least questioned her symptoms earlier. Yes, the outcome would have remained the same, but the journey may have been longer.


Chris lost her battle with mesothelioma in January 2020.

If you, or someone you know, are suffering the effects of mesothelioma or would like to know more about the work Reflections is doing to reduce the impact of asbestos on the community, contact us today and one of our team will be in touch.

My world came crashing down. Travel plans were shattered, and a 5-month chemo regimen commenced immediately.

For the last 4 years we had been planning a 12-month tour around the world. By October 2017, we had made most of our plans and bookings. It was around that time I noticed a small, hard bump on my chest.

Thinking it was a sport injury from playing hockey on the weekend, I went down to my GP to get it checked out. My GP referred me for a ultrasound. The radiologist did the ultrasound, and said “uh oh” and immediately suggested an x-ray. After the x-ray, he said “I think you had better have a biopsy done”. This was done immediately, followed with a PET scan the next day. After a long wait over the weekend, I finally saw my GP to review the results. “Have you been exposed to asbestos?”, he said.

Indeed I had. So had my mother, who died from mesothelioma in 2005. My world came crashing down. Travel plans were shattered to pieces and a 5-month chemotherapy regimen commenced immediately. My GP got me on to a clinical trial as well. It has now been 6 months since I was diagnosed. I was 56 years old. Although my pleural mesothelioma was relatively advanced, I tolerated chemo very well and achieved moderate shrinkage. I continue on the clinical trial and hope that it keeps the meso at bay for a while.

My wife, Paige, has been my rock throughout this ordeal. Sometimes I think of just packing it all in, but Paige has kept me strong, focused and positive. I know being positive is the key to coping with this disease. It is difficult and I struggle at times, but Paige is always there to prod me in the right direction. We have started to pick up the travel pieces we had planned and are looking forward to filling our lives with family, adventure and each other.

You can read more about my meso journey in my blog.


Support for the Rafferty family in their desperate time of need

Helena Valley resident, Peter Rafferty, was given just nine months to live when he was diagnosed with the terminal disease mesothelioma in December 2015.

At 45 years of age, Peter was carrying on a happy, busy life with his wife Bec, their three sons (17, 16, 10) and foster child (3) blissfully unaware of the journey that lay ahead. Life had been full of promise as Peter and Bec planned for the future. Passionate about caring for children whose family lives are not ideal, they had fostered seven children to this point and would often find themselves with up to eight people living in their small, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home in Helena Valley. Having done life tough as a youngster, Peter was determined to provide a stable, happy environment.

With this in mind, Peter and Bec began an owner- builder project in 2015 to increase their living area and the number of bedrooms. As a real estate agent, Peter had flexibility to work around his family and life commitments as he undertook this major project. However, life took a tragic turn when the couple received the devastating news that Peter had mesothelioma – a terminal asbestos-related cancer.

The couple were in shock as they weren’t aware at the time, of the dangers of asbestos.

Since his diagnosis, Peter has got progressively unwell and things are now looking grim. Constantly in pain, Peter has been unable to work to earn an income and his ability to continue work on their dream home has been limited.

Despite the hardships, by October 2015 the renovations were well underway with the concrete slab laid, the framework and roof up and the walls ready to be clad. Approaching the bank for finance to purchase the required materials, they were advised that, due to Peter’s lack of income and the slump in the housing market, they would be unable to re-finance until the addition was at “lock-up”.

But Peter and Bec were not entirely alone in their journey.

During 2016 the couple became connected with a support group for mesothelioma sufferers and their families through the Reflections Through Reality Foundation. The foundation’s Operations Manager, Jo Morris, approached Michael Mclean, Executive Director of Master Builders and Ambassador to the Foundation, and explained the Rafferty family’s situation.

Without hesitation Master Builders, along with its President Rob Spadaccini from Spadaccini Homes, offered their support. Suppliers and trades are coming forward to provide what they can toward the project but WE URGENTLY NEED CASH to help cover unavoidable overheads. Some of the materials and trades will require funding and we urge you to help if you are in a position to do so.

Donations can be made via this link and all donations over $2 are tax deductible.
Thank you for being part of this exciting project.

Rafferty Family Project – Bec and her boys (centre), Peter with their youngest son (bottom right)