Tuross Head’s Ruth and Geoff Rose have appealed for vigilance after Mrs Rose’s recent diagnosis with the cancer mesothelioma.
It wasn’t long after celebrating her 75th birthday that Ruth Rose noticed a decline in her health.
The fit and active Tuross Head resident started feeling shortness of breath and weakness during her aqua aerobics and line dancing classes.
Attributing the change to old age, Mrs Rose sought medical advice and was prescribed a puffer for asthma.
It wasn’t until August, just days before embarking on a trip of a lifetime to the United States, that her health deteriorated further.
“I woke up and I had sharp pain under my rib – right up through my breast and my back – and I couldn’t breathe properly,” Mrs Rose said.
A trip to hospital failed to pinpoint the cause of her complaints and the couple decided to continue with their holiday plans.
Mrs Rose almost didn’t survive the plane trip.
Never did they anticipate their holiday would involve 11 days in hospital and a medical bill of close to $100,000.
With nearly a litre of fluid on her lungs and frighteningly low oxygen levels, she was admitted to a New York Hospital, where she was diagnosed with the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma.
Mrs Rose spent 11 years in the Western Australian town of Wittenoom, where asbestos had previously been mined for many years, and said she had also helped build a shed from asbestos sheets.
Her brother, who also lived in Wittenoom, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2016. However, Mrs Rose said she was unprepared for the diagnosis.
“It was a hell of a shock,” Mrs Rose said. Now she wants others to be vigilant and has organised an awareness Blue Morning Tea for Saturday.
The Roses will raise the profile of asbestos-related diseases at a blue morning tea this weekend for National Asbestos Awareness Month.
Mrs Rose ran a guest house in Wittenoom during the 1980s and 90s, after mining had been discontinued, and despite the risk and public warning signs, recalled a town bustling with tourists. The town has since been degazetted.
“I went to Wittenoom when it was thriving … there was nothing to give me any indication that down the track I’d be battling what I’m battling now,” she said.
According to the Asbestos Education Committee, 13 Australians die each week from asbestos-related diseases, 12 of those from mesothelioma. The disease is difficult to diagnose and can develop 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos fibres.
Mrs Rose said her time in Wittenoom wasn’t her only exposure: “I helped my first husband build a shed, using sheets of fibro while he sawed it, and held it up while he hammered the nails in. That was in the 70s.”
She hopes her diagnosis will serve as a warning for people to steer clear of deadly asbestos materials, which lay dormant in houses and sheds across the country.