The Cost Of Survival: A Diary Of Breast Cancer, Six Years On

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A time when I ask myself the haunting question: is my cancer back?

3 days ago

Ongoing Quest To Make Bushfires Fatality Free

The recent fires in Adelaide have served as a grim reminder that bushfires aren’t just a concern for country residents. There are plenty of suburbs around the country which are literally a disaster waiting to happen. I recently sat down with Brian, a lifelong rural resident with exceptional acknowledge and a survivor of the tragic Black Saturday fires of 2009.

While he spoke, it became startlingly obvious that if I was ever caught in a bushfire, I’d be in serious trouble. More apparent was the fact that I probably wouldn’t be alone. There are so many aspects of bushfires that most city and suburban dwellers just aren’t aware of. So, when Brian shared his experience about escaping the Black Saturday bushfires, his life saving information prompted me to write this article in a quest to spread the word and hopefully save some lives.

Now, most of us would have heard the warnings about pre-planning and deciding whether to stay or go BEFORE a fire approaches? How many of us in the city or suburbs really take notice? I’ll admit that I’ve never really considered it. I’ve assumed those warnings are mainly for residents in fire prone areas. Naive really, because bushfires can strike anywhere.

During the conversation, I realised that my naivety would have cost my life and the lives of my family. I don’t know if you recall, but during the Black Saturday fires, people were found burned alive in their cars? What a terrifying thought and my heart goes out to their loved ones. I assumed it was because the fires surrounded them, leaving no way to escape. In reality, it may have been something very different.

Imagine a combustion heater and the way it works. Without fuel and oxygen, they just go out. Most have a lever which oxygen levels can be adjusted to reduce or increase the heat. A bushfire works exactly the same way. The more fuel and oxygen it can get, the hotter and more deadly it becomes.

Cars also need air to circulate around the engine to keep running. Without it the car ceases, just like running out of petrol. So like me, if your plan would be to wait until the last minute and jump into your car to escape an oncoming fire, you would very likely die. At some point the engine would cease and you’re brilliant escape plan would actually put you right in harms way.

Thankfully, a car can still roll if you’re on a downward slope. Brian explained that his car’s engine ceased on the way down a hill toward safety, during Black Saturday. He let the car roll and tried to restart the engine. Luckily, as he approached the base of the hill, the engine restarted. Apparently the air concentration was greater at the lower altitude, plus the distance from the fire had also increased. Without this knowledge, Brain could have very likely become trapped in his car and become another fatality.

My conversation with Brian was a massive wake up call. I hadn’t ever considered the way bushfire works or how incompatible an escape in a car would be. Despite seeing the commercials and billboards about planning for a bushfire, I’d neglected to understand the significance of the message; plan to stay or go BEFORE the fire.

Now I know why, the message really hits home. There’s no escape in a vehicle once the fire gets close. Due to the intensity of the heat, the safest option is to leave the area well and truly before a fire rips through. Your home and belongings can be replaced, but your life and that of your loved ones can’t. Please share this information in a quest to make all bushfires, fatality free.

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January 14, 2015

What You Need To Know About Organ Donation

Did you know that regardless of your registration status, each family of a potential organ or tissue donor must consent to the donation? Plus, not every donor gets to donate. There are exceptionally strict conditions which must be met to harvest organs. It’s marginally less for human tissue.

In 2013, only 1 per cent of  potential candidates who died in hospital actually met the criteria. This left  Australia with a mere 391 suitable organ donors for our entire population. With approximately 1500 Aussies queuing for an organ transplant at any given time, these figures indicate we desperately need more donors to save lives. Registration is reported to be rising at around 75 per cent of the population happy to donate, but we still need to do more.

The Australian Government Organ and Tissue Donation Authority, reported that only 69 per cent of registered donors have told their families of their potential donation. We really need that figure to rise. When potential donors became available in 2013, only 51 per cent of their family members knew what loved ones wants. Of these, the vast majority (94 per cent) of the families agreed to the donation. When the decision was left to family without knowing, the figure dropped substantially to 60 per cent.

Enough with the stats right? It’s enough to make your head spin. What these figures indicate is that it’s imperative for families to talk about organ donation. We often talk about a whole heap of other crap, like what Aunty Joan did at the last family party, but important stuff like this often gets avoided. In reality, if your family doesn’t know what you want, there is a significant chance they will decline the donation and your opportunity to save up to 10 lives will be sadly lost.

Lucky for us, Australia is a world leader in successful transplants. It’s not just about recruiting donors either. National, state and territory government’s have initiated ‘A World’s Best Practice Approach to Organ and Tissue Donation for Transplantation’ reform. The aim is to increase community engagement, awareness and registration rates, plus improve transplant success through stringent selection criteria and vital funding for medical professionals, post-donor care and facilities.

The federal government has allocated additional funds to secure dedicated specialists, like surgeons, nurses, hospital based transplant specialists and support service for both recipients and donor families. Donor families receive support regardless of their decision to donate or not. It will be a particularly difficult time and significant research has gone into providing the best outcome for both the donor family and individual organ recipients.

After a transplant, recipients receive assistance while they undergo 3 or more months of intensive recovery. For this time, recipients need consistent support as a mass of medications are introduced, including poisonous anti-rejection drugs. Recipients may experience potentially life-threatening side effects from medications and therefore potential recipients without 24/7 support for this period are ineligible for a transplant.

This may seem harsh, but the success of the transplant depends on the recovery period. With such a low availability of donors, specialists want to ensure only individuals with the best chance of survival receive these valuable organs. They are aware they may not be able to save everyone’s life so they must base their decision on these types of variables. It’s the ultimate gift of life and no-one wants it wasted.

Lastly, if you do decide to donate, be aware that your organs will be harvested with the utmost care and professionalism and your family will be thoroughly supported. If you’d like to know more about recipients of organ donors, we have an upcoming article, A day in the life of an organ transplant recipient. I’m blessed to have a family member who has recently an organ transplant and fully  comprehend the precious gift which has been received.

It is a decision which changes far more than an individuals life and impacts everyone they associate with, including the wider community. Who knows, one day it might be you on the waiting list and someone’s donation just might save your life. Surely that’s worthy of a 5 minute family conversation?

If you want more information on organ donation, head to

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December 9, 2014

Escaping Domestic Violence

 Don’t play the victim and stay in an abusive relationship, as it will only prolong the abuse. If you want things to change; you are the only one who can make it happen. Remember; don’t stay because of their promises; leave because of their actions.

Well, this is as good as it is ever going to get. There’s not going to be a magical wand to tap your partner on the head and change them over night. Yes, they maybe amazing, loving, kind and passionate when things are good, but don’t you want that all the time, not just some of the time? Do you feel that bad about yourself that you need to stay and cop that? Even if you do, you need to know that there have been countless people in your position. Some of them didn’t make it out of their relationship and suffered until the bitter end. Others took a giant leap forward and are thriving! Seriously, these are your options and you need to make a choice.

If you are searching the web for yourself or someone else, you need to know or tell your loved one… If you are ok with what’s happening; then stay. If you are not ok with that, then please take the advise of the millions of survivors out there and plan your escape. Up until now you have stayed with your abuser for a variety of reasons.

  • If you are staying because you have no money; don’t
  • If you are staying for the kids; don’t
  • If you are staying out of fear of loosing your kids, family, home or even your life; don’t
  • If you are staying because you have nowhere to go; don’t
  • If you are staying because you love your partner; don’t

Regardless of what people say, love plays a big role is why people stay. You need to understand that this type of love is very unhealthy and destructive. If you stay, your partner will continue to abuse you. If you leave, they have a slim chance of changing their behaviour and seeking help themselves. Don’t stay because of their promises; leave because of their actions. Getting yourself, and children if you have them, out of this environment is the only way the abuse will stop.

There are some excellent welfare and government agencies out there that can get you on your feet. They have shelters available is you have no-where to go. Your kids will be better off out of that environment. Children will have a much greater chance of becoming abusers or being abused if they witness it and it becomes normal as they grow up. Domestic violence agencies have the law on their side and will do everything in their power to protect you and your children. Even dealing with the pain of breakup can be helped by counsellors and survivors of domestic violence. There are resources available to you, if and when you choose to use them. Join the millions of survivors and it will be the most significant step forward you have ever made!

Each state has their own domestic violence supports in place. To find a comprehensive list of state and national services head to:

National 1800RESPECT Line (1800 737 732)

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Translating & Interpreting Service 13 14 50

National Relay Service 133 677

Provides service access for deaf and hearing impaired people 106 (Emergency)

For non-emergency TTY calls133 677 

By Kim Chartres

June 29, 2014