Monthly Archives: September 2016

One size doesn’t fit all with Aboriginals

Sharing another story from a reader


I work at the local AMS (Aboriginal Medical Service), I had to take an Uncle to the hospital he has cancer, I can’t give you any details because that is his story, not mine.

I took Uncle up, made sure he had everything he needed, told the staff of his cultural needs and left. The next day I went up to check on him and to see if they had done the surgery. Poor Uncle was so upset and one of the Aboriginal hospital staff was with him. I asked what had happened. I was told that a nurse sought help and asked for one of the Aboriginal Hospital Liaison officers  to come. She called a female AHL ( Aboriginal Hospital Liaison) , a young one at that. Uncle tried to explain he needed a man to talk to about his cancer. The young AHL, who isn’t from this country, doesn’t know his needs and  was at a loss as to how to help him.

I asked the nurse if the hospital has a male AHL and was told no. This amazed me. They need to have a male and a female worker there because Men’s Business and Women’s Business are very important to the local community. The hospital needs to work with us to make sure things run smoothly for our mob to help them get better health outcomes.

So I talked to Uncle about what the nurse wanted to talk to him about. I then said down with some of the staff and explained how important it was. He is an old man, he cannot be undressed around young women. He cannot talk about private body parts with young women. Luckily the staff seemed to understand and then I went to talk with the Hospital Liaison officers and told them what was happening in the community, and that it’s not their fault that they are not from here and don’t know. But in future they need to talk to the community and the AMS so that when our men come in they have a man there if they need it.


Have I told you about T’Shania?

Have I told you about T’Shania before? I can’t remember if I have but she is an incredible young lady who went to school with my son. While she was at school, he mum was diagnosed with a brain tumor and that girl kept her family together.

He father left as it was all too much for him and mum was sick the bills were piling up and she had two younger sisters. She used to sell her mum’s pain killers at school to get money to pay the rent, buy food and she drove her mum’s car while under age to make sure her sisters were at school and that they could play sports and do things that kids should do.

I don’t condone selling drugs, but that girl wanted to keep her family together and she did just that. She finished high school and is now working and has a licence. Her mum  has had a turn for the worst and is in a coma and is not expected to come out of it.

That girl is all of 21 she is working and  getting her sisters to and from school, the girls go to dance classes, and T’Shania, well, she is playing mum and is always doing for her sisters and up at the hospital with her mum. The word inspiration is over used, but to me she is just that, an inspiration. She came around to visit the other day to see how I was getting on. She told me that she is dealing with lawyers to ensure that she becomes the sole carer for her sisters, as she doesn’t want them to be uprooted and sent to the dad.

She is working with DOCS to make sure that her sisters are known to them and they can see that she is taking care of them. What a wonderful young lady. She doesn’t go out and party, she has lost her teen years being a responsible person. She is doing more than a lot of people older than her cannot manage to do.

If you are wondering about the medications, well yes she is selling them to get the extra money, but I honestly cannot blame her or condemn her for that. She is doing everything she can to keep her family together.

How do your kids cope

I am no expert and I can only speak from my own experiences about how hard it is for kids to cope with watching a parent with cancer.  When I was diagnosed, my youngest was in year 4, a child just started high school, another in high school and the eldest was a young adult.

In my youngest daughters school, they were so helpful, they prayed, they raised money for cancer council. They understood my daughter sometimes just needed to cry. They encouraged her to take days off school when I was well to just have some time together. It was great.

The high school wasn’t so good, I had to argue to get extensions for my kids with assignments. I had to get permission from the school to let them have some time with me. This bugged me as at the time I was not expected to live too long. The school did nothing. As my medical bills got higher and higher, the primary school waved fees and used their school fund to pay for my daughters books, excursions uniforms. The high school did nothing. I had a sad situation where I couldn’t afford to pay for things so had to organise to pay of the school levy and book fees etc. I am talking about a state school here, not a private school. I sought help to pay for bills but couldn’t get any help. I was lucky that I had some wonderful friends and family who did fundraising for the medical bills, helped with food and with travel for my kids to and from sporting or other excursions.

This was embarrassing to my kids. This had a huge effect on their self-worth. Kids who are facing the loss of a parent are already emotionally fragile, that cannot be helped. But schools and other organisations can make things easier by helping out, so that the kids don’t have to go with out or feel like a charity case.

My youngest is still in high school money is still tight as some of my medications are not on the PBS. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle she misses out on somethings because of money. But the worst thing I have found is that she has come across other kids who make fun of her.  I told her about Dolly Parton, and “Coat of Many Colours”.

I said that this song made me feel strong and brave when I was a child and had kids make fun of me because we were poor blacks and all the other names.

But I guess the song doesn’t translate into today and the me generation or millennials or whatever 16 year olds are. My daughter has cried to me and with me, about comments that she has faced. Who says to another kid that “If your mum died would you have more money” another one was “How long is your mum going to do this? hasn’t she been cured yet?” “I don’t believe your mum is sick, she should have died”

I was rather amazed that kids could say that. I spoke to a youth counselor about it and found that it is not uncommon. Kids have a sympathy but if something is too long they lose it and think it should be a problem solved.

Wow, so how many kids are going through extra crap that they are not telling their parents? Can the cancer counselling services deal with this? How do you as a parent make the world a better place for your child when you don’t know how to deal with the issues?

As I said I spoke to a youth mental health professional about this. I asked what I as a parent can do and what my child should do. I looked at the websites and sought information, everything seems to be directed at breast cancer. That shits me, I can’t relate to breast cancer and nor can my kids. They have a mum with a brain cancer and a tumor in her jaw.

Click to access When-Your-Parent-Has-Cancer.pdf


I found the booklet “when your parent has cancer” not too bad. You can go to CANTEEN, but from the experience of one of my girls, she found it hard as she was in a group with teens who had cancer and she as she said, felt like a fake. She felt that they were a priority and that she shouldn’t be there. Maybe they should have put her with kids who had parents with cancer. She did make friend and sad to say actually has had some die. That was not something I wanted for my child.

Make sure that your child has someone safe to talk to, someone who they can share their feelings of anger and frustration. It is natural for them  to be angry at the world and at you. set aside some time to spend with each child and do something as a family on a regular basis. I am not talking going to theme parks, I mean sitting in the backyard or having a picnic, playing touch at the park. Just do some family things. Listen to them. even though you are cranky and facing your own shit. listen and hear what they say.

Don’t think seeing a counselor is a bad thing, it is good for you and your kids. Use whatever help is out there for you.