It’s not often that a person is thankful to get pneumonia but for Therese Holden* from the Hunter Region of NSW, being treated in hospital for pneumonia uncovered something far more worrying. Scans led to the discovery of a slow-moving cancer that had started with a lump in the breast and had already metastasized.
It was during Therese’s subsequent cancer treatment that the Cancer Council referred her to Invest Blue for financial support. She connected with Taylor Peiris from the Central Coast office and as a result of their great working relationship,
Therese’s financial stress was alleviated, enabling her to put all her energy into recovery.
And that she did. We chatted to the very bubbly and positive Therese about the health challenges she’s faced and her deep love for family.
Therese’s oncologist said there could be no way of knowing how long her cancer had been there but suggested the likelihood of four to five years. During that period, Therese had experienced few indications that something was amiss. By the time her cancer was found in December 2018, there were lesions on her spine and lungs and Therese’s long-term prognosis was poor.
Chemo was to commence immediately. It was a relatively new, experimental chemotherapy delivered orally rather than intravenously and Therese was advised that without treatment she would die.
It was a troubling start with the first round of chemo resulting in an Emergency Department admission due to liver failure.
Therese had intended to go about her treatment privately and not share her diagnosis with family. They had, after all, been through so much already and still recovering from the tragic death of Therese’s younger sister just months before.
A nursing sister at John Hunter Hospital, Therese’s sibling had died from bowel cancer – cancer that, in eerily similar circumstances to Therese, was detected late, having already spread. A single parent, Therese’s beloved sister died soon after her 50th birthday, leaving behind two teenage girls.
It was understandable that Therese wanted to protect the family from further heartbreak but once admitted to hospital after the first round of chemo, her health issues could no longer be kept from family members.
Having worked for nearly 40 years in the local court environment (both local and district) Therese’s diagnosis meant she was forced to medically retire. She is a proudly independent person but being on her own means that there is no other household income, no fallback position.
The effects of ill health are far-reaching and perhaps for the first time in their lives, people find themselves deeply concerned about their future.
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The Cancer Council are one of many wonderful charities that make things a little easier. One of the ways they assist is in providing funds for financial support be it to draw up a will or help those undergoing treatment, plan for a secure financial future. Concerns about the path ahead led Therese to Invest Blue’s Taylor Peiris in mid-2019.
“I was so pleased to have another person on my side,” says Therese. “The last thing I needed to add to my situation was financial stress. That kind of stress can have such a bearing on someone’s health. Taylor was unbelievable. She went through everything in such depth and gave me complete reassurance.”
“Prior to meeting Taylor, I had concerns about going from a full-time wage to living on a pension. Being such a big adjustment,
I wanted to know that I would be secure in my retirement.
Taylor worked everything out on my behalf; she chased up all the paperwork and made so many phone calls.”
The relief in Therese’s voice is obvious as she continues,
“I would not have known where to start. I just can’t put into words what Taylor has done for me.”
The pair continue to work well together and the bond they have established is evident when Taylor speaks of her client. “Therese is an absolutely lovely person, so generous and compassionate. She’s also really engaged and eager to ask questions to better understand her finances. It’s fair to say that initially, she had minimal understanding of her financial situation but over time and through lots of questions
Therese has developed a very sound understanding and can now make such well-informed decisions. We’re a good team”
Therese is quick to agree on Taylor’s last point. “We work wonderfully together because Taylor has such a great manner. She’s very empathetic and excels in her customer service. Taylor is very thorough and always ensures that I’m happy with what she’s told me. She certainly puts my mind at rest.”
These days, Therese’s mind is also at rest in relation to her health prognosis. Once advised her cancer was terminal, her doctor has now redefined her condition as “chronic.” This means that with ongoing treatment, there are many years left to enjoy life and for quality time with family.
Just like the sister, she misses from the bottom of her heart; Therese is a carer by nature. She’s a kind and selfless person who devotes much of her time caring for her 83-year-old mum who lives in a self-contained apartment on the bottom level of Therese’s home. Her mum is almost clinically blind and has Alzheimer’s. When I tell Therese her mum is lucky to have such a dedicated daughter looking out for her, she’s quick to correct me. “I’m the lucky one. I have the most amazing mum. I’m very blessed. Everyone adores her and even with her mind starting to fade, she’s still so positive.”
Therese has been caught up for months overseeing some necessary changes to her mother’s apartment, changes made all the more challenging because of Covid which resulted in a lack of available tradesmen and lengthy lockdowns across the region. With renovations now complete, Therese can finally sit back and relax. One way she’ll do just that is sitting in the big sunken spa she’s recently had installed.
Better health and being out of lockdown will also bring about more time with her adored nieces who, since her sister’s passing, have become like daughters to Therese. “I’m so incredibly proud of them. One is studying to be a social worker whilst the other wants to follow in her mum’s footsteps and become a nurse.”
It certainly looks like the compassionate, nurturing side runs in the family….
And so, Therese is all set for this next phase – that as happy retiree living a quieter life. “Well, hopefully not for too long,” she says with a smile. In lovely news for a family that has experienced such sadness, both of her gorgeous nieces got married this year and Therese is hoping that the pitter-patter of tiny feet isn’t far off. And while she may not be their official grandma, she’ll certainly dote on any little ones and most likely be looked upon as the most amazing granny ever.
*Name changed for privacy reasons
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