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Palliative Care stories from our local community

Palliative Care Australia is the national peak body for palliative care.  To view events they are offering click here

To view stories from our local community, please click on the names below – click on the + to expand and – to contract the text.

Born on the 8th May 1935 in Maryborough Victoria the second of 9 children.

A hard working man whom drove trucks for most of his working life, he was old school and his work ethic was to be admired, as hard as it was back then he worked tirelessly to support his wife and five children.

A bit of a character who loved a game of Pool & Bowls, a beer and to travel, with his family hearing many times about his life on the road and the hard times they endured, but also of the travels spent with his family and friends. He was a proud supporter of his children and grandchildren’s sporting activities whether it be at the event or watching from afar he was very proud of his family.

He was the one everybody could rely on if they needed a hand, but you never heard about what he’d done for others that’s just who he was, loved and admired by many.

At age 84 he was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma although, as he often said this was a huge kick in the guts for him he chose with the support of his family not to have any treatment as his life was now about “quality not quantity” he told the oncologist, who accepted his decision once learning quite quickly he wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise.

For the next two years he led a fairly normal life although there were some more scans and Ors appointments they were on his terms, he continued playing his beloved Bowls, travelling and making memories with his family and friends. Three and a half weeks prior to his passing he played in and won a Bowls grand final, this it seemed was all he now needed to accomplish in his lifetime and whilst his health was not real good at this time it later took a dramatic turn for the worse.

Reuben had completed an Advanced Care Plan at the time of diagnosis, his wish was to stay at home and be cared for by his family, something that his family are proud to say they were able to achieve with the care and support of our amazing Palliative Care team (our Angels in disguise) this was also a time some beautiful memories were made, before Reuben sadly passed away aged 86, two years and five days after his initial diagnosis and just a short 11 days after needing the care and support he received. He never was one to complain and even though his family knew he’d be in pain he always replied No when asked but they soon learnt the signs.

We love and miss him terribly.

Kaye battled cancer for many years, starting with a partial mastectomy, lung, and then liver cancer. We were told by an oncologist in late 2019: “You will see this Christmas but probably not the next”. This meant that from that day we were constantly counting the days, would it be sooner or later?

Why not simply say “Time is limited, we will make the journey as easy as possible”.

Kaye accepted the prognosis, but with a fighting spirit, an acceptance that clouded my ability to fully appreciate the inevitable, causing me to believe that where there is life there is hope.

I reflect on this and tell myself that I had enough time to be prepared for the end but no, I wasn’t, and don’t know how anyone can be.

I hope that the following details of my experiences will enable others to be more aware of the highs and lows of their journey.

From that day we became aware of the term palliative care and were introduced to the most amazing organisation and people in Colac and district, and they are the people who smoothed the journey, guiding and supporting.

Reflecting on our journey I find it was straight forward with few complications, so I empathise with those whose lives may be more complicated personally, socially and financially.

Kaye was very organised and discussed her wishes as to being cremated, no funeral or religious service, simply a gathering of close family and friends at our favourite cafe and her ashes scattered in the Colac Botanic Gardens where we often went for take-away lunch and tea.

Kaye’s main wish was to die at home, in the house we built together with the rose garden outside the loungeroom window. We set up her bed in December when she started having restless nights and difficulty climbing the stairs, and on the morning of the 21 January Kaye woke distressed and disorientated, the first sign the disease was progressing rapidly.

Catherine from palliative care came out and suggested that I contact our son Brendon in Sydney. He arrived the next afternoon.

Bren was able to bring his work computer which we set up enabling him to operate remotely as many did during the Covid complications. We worked well together looking after Kaye and the domestics and administered Kaye’s medications with frequent visits by the nurses and telephone contact with the doctor.

We started making enquiries with local funeral director Chris Quinn about our options and made them aware of our position. This made contacting them after Kaye’s death on the 26 February 2021 much easier as there was a degree of familiarity, they allowed us to determine when they would come out, allowed us to spend as much time with Kaye as we liked and the follow up office visit was relaxed and friendly.

One big positive is the funeral director’s tribute page where people leave messages for you.  This is linked to the Colac Herald’s death notices and obituaries.

Apart from the constant use of the term “The estate of…”, banks use the term “survivorship application” which for me was very confronting. There is a set of documents to work through but thankfully our solicitor did all that was required, including changing from joint ownership names on real estate. All we had to supply were current rate notices and title documents. Our legal fees were minimal.

The death certificate arrived within two  weeks, the solicitor made and certified copies which I carried with me to any other meeting.

Centrelink required original documents and cards. I had a face-to-face meeting, and they were exceptionally good, a bereavement payment and an adjusted pension payment. They offered personal and financial counselling which I declined.

Be prepared as your pension may drop due to assets accruing to you.

What I wasn’t prepared for though was when I went to the RACV to change membership from Kaye’s name and car to mine.

They wanted a copy if her will!

Kaye had already signed her car registration over to me, a simple procedure at VicRoads where you need to show them your marriage certificate and pay $40. 

I should have done the RACV then.

Don’t be slow in talking to someone at the height of your emotions, you need to release them.

Not all emotions need to be tempered or quelled.

Be aware of the experiences you have shared, keep the memories and be prepared for some very emotional triggers.

Entering palliative care gave us the chance to plan with Kaye, what she was able to focus on each day and what could be achieved, talk to friends and be assured of everyone’s support.

In the last month we had takeaways at the lake, dinner at the Beeac pub, and visits from friends. Kaye was active up to a few days before going.

Counselling takes many forms and comes from many people and various circumstances. I talk to myself, the dogs and most of all, Kaye. She set me up with recipes and the sewing machine, but I still have to ask, “Now what, mate?” Kaye used to say that she could feel her mother looking over her shoulder, now I can experience the same feelings.

A good carer will know what type, how much and when to give it. A smile, a searching look at your face, a touch, hug, caring words. Too much can be as bad as too little.

Change counsellor if you don’t feel comfortable, be it a friend or a professional.

Kay was born Kay Elizabeth Cassells on 20 November 1943.

She was an only child.

At the age of 9 her mum passed away and due to the hard times, her dad and she had to move in with her cousin Dorothy. Kay looked at her like a mum, then a sister and best friends in later years.

Kay grew up in Granville Sydney.

Mum started working at Colanda when she came to Colac. After finishing her study at Sunbury in 1981 she returned to Colanda as Night Sister in Charge, just before her second child was born.

Mum continued to work there until Allisha was born in 1983.

Mums’ dedication to her nursing continued and she started working at Colac Hospital. During this time, she worked in all areas of the hospital, before gaining a position in District Nursing.

Mum then became Associate Charge Nurse working with Beryl Simmons.

Beryl and Mum worked hard with District Nursing and during this time they started Palliative care in Colac. Something that mum described as a great achievement. Mum was very dedicated to this as I remember being dragged out of bed and put in the car late at night so she could help someone in need or if a person was passing.

Mum became very involved with her patients and grew friendship with their family over their years which she still maintain up until her passing.

When mum retired from nursing she started gardening and housekeeping for some of the people she had met through community nursing. Which when she became a grandmother in year 2000 to Tara she loved to Take her along to help her. Mum Brought Tara her own Gardening Kit and Tara would go along pulling the weeds out that she had missed. Mum and Tara had a very close bond to the end.

Mum never stopped helping people. And she showed me this when she went to help Stephen and Sharni Gill for what was meant to be 4 days and she never came home for 5 years. She stayed out there assisting Stephen’s father and brother to remain at home.

Mum continued with her gardening right up until her diagnosis, and even after that she continued to do what she could.

Mum loved her garden. Especially the 200 hundred and something roses she has that now I get to prune! Gee Thanks mum.

Mum stayed a strong woman up to the end and its true what they say, nurses make the worst patients. She fought all the way against her illness and refused services she had put in place for others for when she was district nursing. However that was her and I’m glad she never lost her independence.


I will always remember the fun times we had and at 65 you coming white water rafting with me in NZ.

You weren’t just my mum you were my best friend.

I’ll never forget your laugh or your wicked sense of humour that you’ve passed on to both me and Tara.

Or the stubbornness that you kept until the end.

When you became sick I had to take things like the lawn mower catcher to work in my car, just so you wouldn’t be doing stupid things.

You will be missed greatly. I know that your presence will always be with me.

Thank you for being such an incredible role model and for loving me unconditionally.

I love you.