We spoke with Betty’s daughter Leanne, who wanted to share her Mum’s story to shine a light on the dangers of asbestos and a not very well known medical condition.
Betty was a vibrant, loving and dedicated wife and mother who received a shock mesothelioma diagnosis as a result of decades of exposure to asbestos through laundering her husband’s work clothes.
Mesothelioma is a type of tumour that lines organs such as the lungs, stomach and heart and is unfortunately incurable. The most common form is a malignant cancer that usually affects the lungs. Symptoms of mesothelioma can include a cough, chest pain and shortness of breath, with a diagnosis requiring lab tests or imaging.
Can you tell us about your mother and her life before she was diagnosed?
Betty (Mum) was always very active and always happy. Mum was full of life and lived life to the fullest. There was no stopping her. She loved living at Palm Lakes Resort Village at Deception Bay and had many friends there. She was loved by many people because she was such a beautiful person and always very kind and caring.
Mum and Dad had moved into Palm Lakes Village after selling our family home at Scarborough on the Redcliffe Peninsula where they had been for their 50+ years of marriage. It was a great move for them both and it gave them a chance to have a beautiful new home with new furniture. They were so happy there and just loved their new home.
My Dad passed away within the first 2 years of them being in the Village and Mum was on her own for the first time in 50+ years of marriage. Although broken hearted, Mum felt very safe in their new home and she had lots of friends to keep a close eye on her. As a family we were very comfortable knowing she was secure and safe. Mum lived at Palm Lakes Village for over 15years until she fell ill.
When my Dad passed away in 2005, Mum didn’t like to stay home, she liked to keep busy and get out and about. She struggled with staying home, particularly on the weekends, because she missed him so much and she was lonely.
Mum loved to socialise and lived life to the fullest. She was never home. It was a joke between our family that we could never find Mum at home. This was known by many of her friends in the Village and they presented her with a sign for her home which read “NEV-A-INN”. This was extra special to her because my Dad’s name was “Nev”.
Mum was involved in many groups in the Village – The Garden Club, The Keyboard Group, The Red Hatters Group, Square Dancing and of course spending time with her friends and family.
When was your mother diagnosed?
Mum was diagnosed in February 2018 and passed away on 25 August 2018 - seven (7) months after her diagnosis.
Her diagnosis was a complete shock to all of us. Mum hadn’t been her sparky self for a quite a while, but none of us ever expected this terrible news. I was with my Mum that terrible day when her lung specialist walked into her room at the hospital and dropped the bombshell. We both just looked at each other and cried as we hugged each other. We had no idea what ‘mesothelioma’ was until that terrible day.
Mum made a decision that day that we she was not going to have any treatment for her condition. She had seen many of her friends struggle with chemotherapy and cancer treatments and she had made up her mind that this was not for her.
As a family we all respected her decision and at no time did we ever think to go against her wishes or think that she was making the wrong decision. As a family, we supported her all the way with her decision, although it was a very hard one to accept, we knew this is what she wanted.
How was your mother exposed to asbestos?
Mum was exposed to asbestos through the laundering of my Dad’s work clothes. My Dad was a builder for the whole of their married life so she was exposed in many ways and had many years of exposure. Dad often prepared materials for his upcoming jobs at home and this meant Mum and us three kids were often called upon by Dad to assist with holding sheets of fibro etc. that he would be cutting.
What was life like for your mother and your family, once she became ill?
When Mum first came home from hospital after her diagnosis she was still very active and trying to lead her normal busy life.
After a short while we could see changes slowing creeping in, she was always very tired, but she still tried to keep up with her busy social life because this is what she loved. She was becoming very frustrated why she was feeling like this. My Mum loved to shop and going out with friends - shopping was on the top of her list. She was such an active person who loved to go out and enjoy herself.
As time passed we could see her illness taking hold in many ways. Mum started to lose interest in socialising because she was just so tired all the time and thought she would not be good company. Because of this she lost her spark very quickly and we could see signs of depression – she was definitely not the bubbly person that she used to be. She knew this and it made her feel very sad because it was out of her control and this is not how she wanted to be.
Mum wanted to stay in her own home so we worked around this with in-home help for her as she required it. Mum found it very hard to accept help from others as she was always so independent. When she realised how much they were all helping her, she accepted this and looked forward to their visits and their company. She made many good friends from her home helpers.
It was at this time that we started taking her on very short outings where she could ride her mobility scooter and we would walk beside her. She loved these outings because she could get out about without having to walk as this was becoming very hard for her. Mum’s energy levels were very low and she was always so tired – to the point of exhaustion. We had many trips to Scotts Point at Redcliffe to Nev Bray Park (a park which was named after my Dad for his many many years of community service with the Lions Club Redcliffe Peninsula). Mum always felt close to Dad when we visited there and it is always a special place for our family to meet.
At the beginning of June, Mum had a weekend with us and our family at our home at Somerset Dam. This was a great weekend for us all and we have lots of memories from this weekend. We had lots of laughs and tears together as Mum talked to us all about her wishes and her funeral arrangements.
This was the very last outing that she had because when we took her back home after this weekend she broke down when she got back to her home and said “I can’t do this anymore”. We asked her what she meant by this and she said she was ready to go into care. This was the first time Mum had ever mentioned this as up until now she was happy to be in her own home. We were really surprised by this but knew it was time and it was her decision.
Her palliative care specialist had told the family that if she ever felt like she needed a break that we could call him and he would arrange for her to go into palliative care for a short stay. Mum spent the next 2 weeks in palliative care in hospital and from there she went into care at Regis Aged Care, Caboolture on 20 June 2018.
When Mum was first diagnosed, we were determined that we would all stay positive and get through this together. Mum loved to travel and had been on many trips overseas and around Australia since Dad had passed away. We travelled together a lot as a family and the most recent trip was when we all went to Europe and the UK for 6 weeks and where we all celebrated Mum’s 80th birthday.
In 2017 we planned and booked a family overseas trip for a White Christmas in December 2018 where we were all going on a European River Cruise. This was Mum’s ultimate dream holiday experience and one that she had always wanted to do.
When she was diagnosed, we all focused heavily on this wonderful holiday that we were all going to have together and she stayed very positive and strong and was determined that nothing would stop her going. This was our ‘golden carrot’ so to speak which kept us all positive and aiming to get her on this trip.
Unfortunately Mum never made that trip as she passed away 3 months prior to us leaving.
Mum had made us promise that we would still go on the trip if anything happened to her prior to us leaving. We did go on the trip. It was very hard not having her with us but she was definitely with us in spirit all the way.
Why did you choose Shine?
The day at the hospital when the lung specialist was talking to us after he had dropped his bombshell – he encouraged us to seek compensation. I had seen the advertisements for Shine Lawyers on TV and had heard their advertisements on the radio. I spoke to Mum about this and she was happy for me to contact Shine Lawyers.
How did you find the legal process with Shine?
We cannot thank Shine Lawyers enough for their support and guidance through this whole process. My first contact with Shine was just amazing – I was made to feel so at ease and they were so understanding. We first met Roger Singh from Shine when he came to visit us at Mum’s home at Palm Lakes Village. Roger is a real gentleman. He made us feel so comfortable when he explained the process to us. Mum felt very comfortable talking to Roger as he was such a lovely man and she always commented about him being a real gentleman.
Our interview sessions with Roger were quite long and these were very hard on Mum. She was exhausted after these sessions but she wanted to keep going as long as she could as she need to tell her story.
Mum had very accurate records which she had kept and she amazed us all how she remembered relevant dates.
Roger was so patient and so understanding through the whole process and our family can’t thank him enough for this.
Shine Lawyers have a dedicated Asbestos and Dust Diseases team, led by Roger Singh, who are experts in compensation claims for mesothelioma and other diseases resulting from exposure to dusts. Click here to find out more about how we can help.