The trouble with AMS

A story of the difficulties sometimes at the local Aboriginal Community Health Service

I have trouble maintaining my medication regime at (Local Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Medical Service). I go to the service, my whole family goes and it annoys me that I have to see a health worker, I tell him or her, what I am there for. If I wasn’t sick I wouldn’t be there so why do I need to see the bouncer of the AMS. I then go back to the waiting room and wait for my name to be called to see the doctor. My name gets called and I don’t see the doctor, I have to explain to the nurse why I am there and she takes my blood pressure we talk about that and when she has finished I don’t go into the doctor, I get sent back to the waiting room. After another wait, my name is called again and I finally see a doctor. But It’s not the same doctor I saw last time I was there and I have to tell him what I have already told the health worker and the nurse. I ask for a refill of my medication, should be easy, but it’s not this bloke needs me to give him my entire history, I dutifully submit to him taking my blood pressure, checking me over and asking me again why I need the (list of medications).

I explain again I tell him to look at my record and see that I have been on ….. for a while now as I have had a lump removed my breast recently and that I also need the (pain relief) for the pain I am in. I added to my list of refills some … for the nausea. He then calls in the nurse and asks her, right in front of me, if I have been receiving treatment for breast cancer, the nurse assured him that I have and that I have had one  removed and a biopsy on the other, followed by a removal of a lump.  Then he gives me the prescriptions I needed and I went home, annoyed that I had to have a nurse verify my story.

A few days later I had to go back to the AMS for ….(pain killers) as the doctor had only given me a prescription for a few days worth. I had to see the Health Worker, then the nurse and then the doctor, of course it was a different doctor and I had to go through my history again. I asked him, why he needed me to explain and why he couldn’t look up my record, he said that all doctors have their own records. So why can’t the nurse give information to the doctor? Why do I everytime I go to the doctor tell my history and why I am there to three different people, surely this is a waste of time and makes a visit to the doctor a lot longer than it should be? Painkiller prescription in hand I left, just so I could do it again in another couple of days.

The next week, I go back to the AMS, this time I didn’t tell the health worker why I was there, I told the nurse that I needed pain relief and could she tell the doctor all my history as I never have the same doctor. I went into the room to see the doctor expecting it to be easier, surely the nurse told him. Instead I had a third doctor that I had to explain to him my history. He didn’t call in the nurse to verify my story. This doctor decided that I had some problems, one of them being an addiction to painkillers. I was concerned when he talked about my dependency on them and that he wasn’t going to give me a prescription for …painkillers. I went home and worried about how easy it was to bcome addicted like the doctor had said, I was worried that he was right, maybe I had become dependent on them. I suffered pain, but didn’t take anything stronger than tablets you can get at the pharmacy. I had pain that …. and …. wouldn’t relieve.

Luckily, I had a check up at the hospital not long after and I was asked about what I was taking for the pain, and I told the hospital doctor what I had been taking. He was amazed and said you must be one tough old bird to be only on paracetamol. After explaining what the third doctor at the AMS said, he scoffed and said nonsense, I needed the painkiller for a few weeks because of the surgery. I was grateful that he organised for me to have a prescription that was for more than a few days.

This isn’t stand alone incident, I have had problems before at the AMS because I never see the same doctor, it’s always different doctors and you can’t request to see the same doctor, you have to see whoever is on duty at the time. This isn’t good service. I have had problems trying to see a female doctor. Family also complain of the same problems, because you never see the same doctor you have to tell them all the time. I have a niece who feels shame when she has to go for ongoing personal-body problems, she has one doctor give her one medication and another doctor give her a different diagnosis and different medications.

What I want to know is why do we have to be treated like third rate people in our own services


I am sharing a very sad and not an unknown story, I am sharing this one because some have been through this terrible problem within their own family. I can relate to some of this. Thank you to Kara for allowing me to reprint her story….


I follow you and I feel a solidarity, I have kids who cause me trouble, too many people say that my kids are bad, that they should do more for me, I suppose they should but I can’t control them. I had cervical cancer, when I was diagnosed my world fell apart. I lost my job, because I was having too much time off work, then I couldn’t get another job, while I was going through all of this, I had to go on sickness benefits and that is when the problems with my kids started. We were struggling for money, with only one wage coming in and that was a parttime job my partner had. My son he was 16 and my girl was 17, they didn’t want to tighten the belt. They wanted to still live like I had a wage. I wanted them to get jobs, so they could pay for things themselves, like going out with their mates, but they didn’t. My kids, started to steal from my wallet. At first it was a small sum, $5 here and there. Then it became bigger amounts, I mean bigger. When I was in hospital for surgery, my partner with me, my  son stole the bankcard, he went on a spending spree, he visited the city with his mates, shouted everyone lunch and a movie, bought himself new gear stayed late and did the same thing the next day and just spent money like nothing. $3000.00, gone in two days. That money was the rent, groceries, my tablets, Electricity, petrol and parking money. When we found out we hit the roof, he had no explanation for it, just that he was sick of having no money like his mates. We talked to family asking what to do, some said call the cops on him, some said make him work it off, or get a job and pay back the money. But that still left us broke and having to get a loan to make ends meet. We spoke to the counselor at school, who told us to go to the hospital to the mental health unit, they have an adolescent unit.  They were good, they spoke to us and ….. spoke to (my son). She said that he was having trouble coping with the family situation, it was new, watching me being sick and the loss of his lifestyle. He had weekly appointments, because they were concerned for him and his coping abilities. Family and friends that knew, thought we were being soft, that (he) was getting off lightly. We didn’t know what to do so we stuck to the advice of the counselor. My son kept stealing money from our wallets and taking the card, it was like we were getting a new card every couple of months. He was buying lunch at school everyday he went and many days he didn’t go to school and was buying lunch all over the place, he was getting on trains and going all around. We would talk and talk it had no effect. The counselor told us he was troubled, he felt guilty that he had taken money and the effect that had on the family, so he stole more. I don’t understand it either. I just know that I was sick and wasn’t able to do a lot or spend enough times with my kids and my partner was struggling to keep our family together. We noticed that somethings had gone missing, and thought it was my son, that he had stolen or broke something. while we were arguing with him,things just got ugly, my daughter joined in, and it was one of those fights, where everyone is having a go and everyone else. Voices were raised and my son pushed his sister, then my daughter threw her bag at him. The contents of her bag fell, and there was a bag of ganja. I think everyone went quiet for a minute, but then it was on again. Everyone was yelling at her, why did she have it, was she smoking it or worse, was she selling it. She had been smoking it for a while it, someone had given her a joint and told her it would help her mum, me. Somebody gave my daughter drugs for me. She told us that she smoked it herself, one night after another argument over her brother taking money. It seems to be her way of coping. She had been taking things from home and selling them at cashies. Only small things, she said her friends told her, anything too big you have to prove you own it, but if it’s not, you can get a bit of money, enough to buy some ganja.  I cried that night, I thought I was the worst mum in the world. What kids do that? I thought, my kids aren’t the sort of kids to do that, they are better than that, but I guess not. I wanted to teach my kids a lesson, I wanted to call the police on the both of them, not just because I was angry, but to stop them from having a life of drugs and theft that could lead to jail.  I went to the counselor with my daughter and son. I cried and told that woman everything. The kids didn’t want me too, they said it was shame. I think they were more shame about themselves. I told her that its a low act to steal from your family, but when you clean out your family and when you have a mum with cancer having treatment, that takes a low dog to do that.  The counselor talked to all of us, alone and as a group, asking each of us what we thought, how we felt. She told us that as a family we were faced with a difficult situation and that our coping mechanisms have been internal, self centered and destructive. Told the kids they were fortunate, that some parents would call the police, but we didn’t. The kids made a promise they wouldn’t do stealing or drugs again. I told them they had to get jobs and pay back all money and replace everything stolen. Things seemed to be okay for a while, I could concentrate on getting better, until my son stole our car, I had to call the police then, I thought, what if he has an accident, what if he kills someone, so I had to call the cops to stop him. He was found, but he doesn’t like me, and honestly I don’t like him at the moment. My partner handled all the legal matters with him, I was too sick, I think treatment and then stress made me worse than I was before. But it gave him a chance to see what the world is like without two parents who love him. He went into a juvenile facility, for a few months. I was immune compromised, so I couldn’t go near the place. He really learned that life is harder for others and that he should count his blessings. He was bashed for having two mums, he was bashed another time for stealing money from his sick mum. Strange kind of justice meted out in those places. All this I think scared my daughter enough to realise that maybe yoga is a better way to find calm.  I don’t know how some parents do it. They have kids that take care of them, who do so much. I have heard of kids younger than mine, helping parents with disabilities or mental illness. But my kids didn’t do extra, they didn’t give more, they took more. I’m glad I am not alone in having kids with troubled hearts. I am not angry at my kids anymore, I am sad about them. One day I will forgive them for all this, but not yet, I am not a big enough person to do that.

Grandmothers pain


A readers story.

I took my gran to the hospital for a check up after she had surgery to remove a lump. We were waiting and waiting and gran started to get a bit sore. I told the nurse that she was starting to hurt and I asked for some panadol. The nurse told me they couldn’t give her any, so I fished around in my bag and found a strip of neurafen and got some water and gave them both to gran. The nurse asked me what I had given her I told her what and she wanted to know why and I told her why, I said my gran was a bit sore. We waited some more and another nurse came over and asked my gran how she was feeling, gran told her she was a a bit sore but she had some neurafen and that she was still sore. The other nurse called out that my gran didn’t need any more relief that she had had enough.the nurse (second nurse) turned to gran and told her she shouldn’t be taking more than she was told and that pain relief was not meant to be a way to feel happy. My gran told her she wasn’t using them to be happy, she just wanted to have no pain. Nurse then told us that gran would have to be tested to make sure she wasn’t overusing her painkillers. Gran and I told her that she was only taking them 4 hourly, she was told she could take something in between if she needed it and she needed it and it was only neurafen. The nurse told gran that she only had her word for it and it would be best to check on it anyway. If it was just me, I would have told her where to go, but it was my gran and she did the test for how much pain killer she had.  When we finally saw the doctor, the doctor told us that getting gran tested for drugs was a waste of time because their was nothing in the notes about the test or what the result was. 








Another Year To Be Grateful

I have a birthday this week, I also have another minor surgery for the tumor growing on my jaw. I really need to change the way I think. I was once determined to beat cancer and live a life of love and contentment, watch my children grow up, work and have friends.

But somewhere I lost sight of being grateful. I was so grateful that I was alive, that I had overcome so much and that I was still around. I helped others, I struggled but I was grateful and relatively happy. I lost that, somewhere I started to whinge and whine and complain at the unjustness of life and what I had been served. I need to remember to be happy and to be grateful. I have to stop being cranky and a terrible mum to my kids. I don’t want to be depressed, I don’t want to always be worrying about how to pay the med bills, I want to have fun, I want to laugh, I want to be a happy mum again.

I don’t know when the change happened, it just did and a shock last week made me realise how much I had slipped. Instead of being grateful that I am still here, I think why am I still here. I am wasting peoples time and I am a burden to my kids. I am never 100 percent well, so what is the point. I need reminding that I am still here and that is a good thing, I have good days and bad days, but at least I have seen my kids grow up. I have watched as my nieces and nephews grow and as some new members of the world have entered. I have been blessed to see that.

I used to be happy when I changed medications or picked up some extra income, anything that would make those bills a little less. The extra money went on other bills or sometimes even a treat for the family.  But instead it became a relief that I wasn’t paying it, feeling jealous of those who have medications on the PBS and don’t pay so much. How can you justify jealousy of that? I mean actual jealous, envy, not just the feeling of unfairness that others like me have to pay so much because the PBS is a popularity competition. It is laughable in a way to be jealous that someone who has a chronic illness has a break that you don’t

I dislike, nay hate that I can’t get a job a permanent full time job because of Charlotte (the name of my tumor), I think how terrible are others who won’t employ me or give me go. When I should be grateful that I pick up a bit of work here and there. I see only the negative and not the positive of every situation. I mean the positive of picking up work here and there, is that I don’t have Centrelink problems, trust me that is a blessing if I don’t have to spend ages sorting out how much I can earn and then waiting for payment after I finish a job. That wait while I get processed again, is very very hard financially.

The frustration I feel at not being able to push or get anyone to help me get Indigenous cancer workers, it is something I think is needed, but I have been pushing for a long time, I get a lot of people and people in organisations agree that it is needed, but no one will work with me to become a reality has plagued me to the point I gave up on pushing for it. So I will change my mindset and tell myself it’s just not time yet, but keep working on it. Don’t fall into a heap of feeling worthless because it hasn’t happened. Just be grateful that I have been there for some individuals and that I have helped them. Count this as a victory, not a failure to those you can’t help.

I see my kids not doing chores around the house, and I get upset and think they are thoughtless selfish kids. I think they are terrible for not doing things that I can’t do, it eats away at me and builds up. It gets blown out of proportion. I need to remember that they are teens and young adults, they are not being hateful. I forget they have a lot to deal with, study and work, their social lives, they can’t be at my beck and call. I need to remember that they too have had a terrible time over the last few years. Imagine how hard it is to watch your mother be so ill and to be told by doctors to say good bye. Yep I forgot they have lives and their own problems. I had become so self centered and caught up in my own misery.

I am going to try to turn it all around and change. I am going to read gratitude quotes, until they become part of my life again. I am going to try to be thankful for 5 things everyday and once a week list long term things to be grateful. I am going to try to change this mind set and remember that this birthday this week is a blessing, it’s a day that I wasn’t supposed to have reached. I need to celebrate that. I will celebrate the birthday that I shouldn’t have had. I will be grateful and celebrate that I have one child left in high school, when I started this journey I had three in school.

Yes I need to get out of this rut, I have played with depression off and on for the past 8 years, but I don’t want to be the misery in other peoples lives. I want to feel happy again. I want to find contentment. When I was a child their was an ad on TV about contented cows, I asked my mum what contented meant, she told me that it’s when you are satisfied in yourself,  happiness and sadness are fleeting but contentment stays with you. I wanted to be one of those cows. Somewhere, somehow, I forgot about those cows, now is the time to change, to be content.


Scream and shout.

This week is a busy one for me, youngest child turns 17, the State of Origin series kicks off this week, game 1 here in Queensland and I have stage 1 of repairing my jaw.

My daughter is going to have a good birthday, we are determined to give her a good day and not have any worry about mum. Mum, mum, it’s always mum. Mums health interrupts with so many activities. For this birthday, my health and the worry the kids have are not going to be allowed. This will be all about the child and fun. There is enough time for worrying later.

I am being brave and trying to keep my cool as this is only the first part of removing the lump in my jaw. I have been psyching myself up and preparing myself for having teeth removed from one side of my mouth to enable better access to the jaw and the problem there.  Because I have health issues caused from previous treatments of my brain tumour, it is going to be a slow process.

I like that it’s going to be slow. Depending on how I cope with the teeth removal will decide on the best way forward. But I will let you into a secret. I am sick of this, I am over it. I don’t want someone poking around in my jaw. I know that it’s not too bad. I have read up on it, I’ve seen the end results, I’ve spoken to a person who has had this same thing done. It’s not a big deal, yet I am worried, I know my other health issues have made it a bit tricky to deal with and to come up with the best plan of attack. I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

My mind tells my nerves that it will all be fine, that things will go well, then stage two can be done and soon it will be sorted. Much better than not removing it, then it will grow, my jaw will go out-of-place and I probably won’t be able to talk.  Yep doing this is the right thing to do, I just need to be cool and positive. I need to not let fear take over.

I want to scream at the world and scream at me and scream at everything until nothing is left to scream about. Just get rid of that frustration and fear. Lets hope the game this week will give me an opportunity to scream. yeah, it will, I will be loud and my poor television and kids will have to put up with it.

I know that I am rambling a bit, guess I can’t help it. When I thought about what to post today, I was undecided, do I share a story? Do I share what I am going through? Do I share some helpful ideas?  I chose to write about what I feel for this week, but looking over what I have in my drafts, I saw I wrote something a while ago about screaming. I thought YES, YES, YES. But it’s not enough. Guess I’m going to do both, talk about this week and join it with a piece on screaming….

When you feel like there is no tomorrow and want someone to talk to where do you go? Cancer Council in all the states have counselors and if you go to your local AMS they also have people there to talk to. Your doctor can recommend you go to talk to some one and if you are on a care package, which you should be, you are eligible for a couple of free visits to a counselor. Many, bulk bill which takes the stress of paying for it.

Some Community organisations have set days where you can book in to talk to someone, this is free. The Salvation Army have wonderful people who can help. So that is a start, but sometimes you don’t want to talk to a stranger you want to talk to someone you know, and that is a bit tricky trying to find someone to talk to, because you don’t want to burden them with your problems and you want to make sure that they are alright with you just off loading how you feel at the moment.

I know that yelling at the sky is a good release, but chose your location carefully, you don’t want to go  the local park and scream at the heavens and then look around at the scared shocked faces of little kids.

You can scream into your pillow, but that is not as satisfying, I have heard that there are places that you can do just that, yell and scream to release all of the frustrations and anger you feel. Wouldn’t that be brilliant if you can turn up somewhere and yell and scream until you are hoarse.




Views on Death3

Stories on death and dying…

My mum died in 2014 and before she passed, she called all the family together, she knew she was going to go. All them old ones know when their time is coming, they still have a strong connection with the spirits and the land. They get the warnings and the sights that time is coming to a close.

When my mum was calling all of us together, we knew it was serious so we all made sure we got back to ….. back to country to see her off. Mums family were there, my auny and uncle, the only ones left of mums sisters and brothers. All us kids and the cousins and the grandchildren. We made the biggest mob. We all spent time up there with mum, some times the hospital would let one of us stay over night, some of them understood it was near her (mum) time and they were caring. Some wouldn’t let us stay and would get angry when we were there, it’s not like the other families weren’t doing it too. We thought it wouldn’t be a problem, lot of old people there and many white families spending time with their family. Sometimes there would be up to twenty people there to see someone before they died, the hospital let them do that.

Time was short and we had to get everyone to visit mum at least once and we wanted to have everyone there together for a visit. We talked to one of the staff and told them, she said it would be fine and that if the family was too big, she would move mum to a room alone or outside so we could all fit. That Sunday was nice and warm, it was sunny and we all went up to the hospital, biggest line of cars going through town. Me and my husband, my brother and his wife went in first. We spoke to someone and told them that we wanted to spend time with mum and that we had all the family here. She came with us to mum and she asked mum if she wanted to go to the garden, it was all fine, mum was being helped into a chair and we went out. Mum was happy to be outside, she wanted to put her feet on the ground, just to feel it, she was sick of being in a bed all the time. Before this cancer took her she was always outside walkingin the yard, going with family and friends to the bush.

We were all having a good time, mum was having a good time enjoying being around everyone again, she was kissing everyone, laughing and hugging and cuddling all the babies in the family, it was lovely watching her be happy for a while. This man starts yelling at us to get out of the garden and telling us we were ruining his hedges and roses, I swear we were no where near them. He is saying that we are trespassing, I tell him that we weren’t. My brother ….., heads to him, saying that our mum was a patient and we had permission to be in the garden. This man still yelling shouts that he is the gardener and that we weren’t allowed to be there. ( Brother) tells him again that we are allowed to be there, we are no different to the other families that come into the gardens, my husband …… goes in to get the staff member who brought mum out. This man just keeps yelling and yelling, we got the younger kids to come around mum, they didn’t need to hear this angry man. The younger ones in the family start yelling back at him, I was telling them to shut up, that just makes things bad and that we don’t want an argument,  and that we don’t want to ruin mum’s day.

….(husband) comes back with that woman, and she says that yes we are allowed to be here. No this gardener getting closer to us and he was right up in ….(brother) face telling him to get out and stay out. He tells the woman, that we had been pulling up flowers and we let the kids run around unsupervised and they had damaged the roses and had put holes in the hedging. The woman says to us, watch the kids and turns to him and says, they will watch the kids from now on and that kids probably didn’t mean any harm. No good this man then yelling at her says that we have to get out of the garden or he will put the sprinkler on us. My son …. says this is bullshit and that the man is racist, and yells at him to get off Aboriginal land. All this is happening, while my mum, is sitting there, trying to enjoy her family in her last days. That gardener then calls us a pack of coons, calls one of the men a gin jockey. Well I had enough, I said we are taking mum back inside, so with my aunty and uncle I take mum back into the building, everyone starts to follow, the woman from the hospital takes us to a family room, so we can continue spending time with mum as a family.

I was determined that this wasn’t going to spoil our time. Everyone was talking about the gardener being crazy or a racist or a crazy racist. But never mind him I was saying lets just be a family. We sang some songs that mum loved and taught us, like pearly shells. The little kids sang songs and performed for her, doing Beyonce and things like that, it was funny. My nephew …. went out to the car to get his guitar and when he came back he was fuming, he told us that a couple of small family groups and some old people were out in the gardens and the gardener wasn’t telling them off. This made everyone angry, even mum wanted to get up and have a go at the gardener. (Nephew) and (son) went to find someone to ask about this, they kept saying it was racist, they came back with the same woman and we said that was wrong, that mum couldn’t enjoy her family outside, just because she was black.

Typical white woman, she said it wasn’t racist, so the boys asked her to prove it, they said go talk to the families outside, see if they were told to go, ask other staff if he had said anything and talk to the gardener. I don’t think she wanted to, but everyone said they would tell the media and we would take them to court. When she came back she was looking shame. The boys demanded to know what she found out, they were angry, but don’t think they threatened her, they are just educated black men, who know their rights. She said the gardener didn’t tell anyone else to go and that he wasn’t around. We got her name and the gardeners name, we told her that we wanted the big bosses name and that we would be back early tomorrow to talk about this.

We complained to the manager and he said he would investigate it. We said that mum was an old woman, she shouldn’t have to put up with no respect and trouble when she was just trying to be with family. We stayed with mum all the time then, round the clock, they weren’t going to stop us or get angry at us, I don’t think they were game enough. It’s a shame that a black woman can’t even die in peace, racists have to ruin that too. Mum passed a couple of days later, its just not right.


Views on Death 2

Stories on death and dying…

When we go to hospital, we die that is how the medical process works. I have my own doubts about euthanasia in the hospital. Who should do it? When should it be allowed? Why should it happen? I have thought about euthanasia since my second cancer was found in my breast. The first one I had surgery chemo and radiation treatment, and I had Tamoxifen which might be why.

Having a second and it needs to be looked at differently and everything is different. I am told that it should be fine and I will be alright, but it made me wonder about life. I talked to some of the women who were at the clinic with me and I guess I am lucky I haven’t had it as bd as some of them. But I wonder sometimes and then I wondered more after you shared. I think I came up with some ideas you probably didn’t think of when you wrote it. You shouldn’t be talking to the community about killing yourself, that’s just giving people the opportunity to hurt us. Think about it, when an elder is in the hospital and you have a racist nurse or doctor, they will help that one die rather than treat them.

A lot of our people die in teh hospital and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were helped into the grave by medical people who gave them a bit extra sleeping pills or a bit too much morphine.  How many have died because they didn’t get the right care, they are treated badly just because they’re black. Talk of killing yourself, or assisted suicide is dangerous.