Diary of a dying Fluffy homeowner

September 08, 2014 at 12:23 PM

Diary of Mr Fluffy victim Kathy Pryce.

2004 - My husband Graham, son Baydon (then aged 13) and daughter Maddison (then aged 9) decide to upsize to a large family home in Flynn. The sale process is unremarkable and we do not recall seeing or hearing anything about asbestos.
We name this place our  "happy home".  My children make new and long-lasting friendships and relationships while in this house. My son now has his fiancee Jamie who is a big part of this house and this family also - as are my three grandchildren Isabella (4), Tayte (2) and Olivia (1).

December 2013 - I am diagnosed with Stage 3, partial Stage 4 renal cell carcinoma.

January 2014 - The tumour and my kidney are removed. My oncologist advises me this cancer is resistant to chemotherapy/radiation and I have a 50/50 chance of recurrence or metastasis. I am advised to reduce stress in my life as it will improve my prognosis.

July 2014 - I am diagnosed with potentially fatal blood clots in my lungs. I am rushed off to hospital to commence blood thinning treatment. My stress levels started increasing again. Two potentially fatal conditions in six months.
I have always been one who sees the positive in situations rather than focusing on the negative. I decided I needed to focus my thoughts on finding the positives - I am alive. I have a wonderful husband, two gorgeous children, three gorgeous grandchildren and I have a roof over my head.
While at home recovering from the blood clots I decide to go through some paperwork and find  the registered post letter advising me that I am living in a home that contains asbestos. We have our house assessed and are advised to seal off certain parts of the home, although it is "safe" to remain living here for the time being.

Friday August 15 - my renal cell carcinoma had metastisised to my brain. I am informed there are links between asbestos exposure and kidney cancer. I am now waiting to find out what treatment plan we have from here on in. We know that my time here is now limited, we just don't know how long yet. I have done my research and know what I am up against.
My thoughts are now to my family. My family will lose me, and my family will also lose the family home we built together. They will lose me and they will lose the memories of me in this home. They will have to rebuild their lives without me and will have to rebuild their home. The home should be their sanctuary. The place they return to so they can feel close to me after I am gone.
My grandchildren will always come running in the back door calling out for "grandma". If they don't find me sitting on my lounge chair, they will head up the hallway to my bedroom looking for me. Their sleep-over room is the room my son grew up in. My family should be able to sit out the back on the deck and reminisce about the family barbecues and get-togethers and Christmases we used to have out there.
They should be able to sit out the front and look at the view that I so loved. This home is where we built our love together as a family. But the asbestos mess will steal that away from my husband, children, and grandchildren.
They will forever wonder whether this home, this sanctuary, was actually what caused my cancer. The mixed emotions they will go through are painful for me to think of.
I hope the ACT and Commonwealth governments can come to a quick resolution to this problem so that all the families who are affected can get closure and move on and build new memories and build new lives - happy lives - lives around family and the family home - their sanctuary - that safe place we call our home.
My hope, my wish, my desire, my desperate plea is to see my home rebuilt before I go. To see my family back in "our" family home so we can recreate memories in the new home together. Memories that my family can look back on after I am gone. The thought of them opening the door to a new home with no memories just tears me apart.

Clarification: A caption on an earlier version this story wrongly said Ms Pryce's cancer is inoperable. She has had an operation on her brain tumour, but her primary cancer is incurable.

By Emma Macdonald
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