Nyrie and Wayde Contor
Nyrie and Wayde Contor Tony Martin

Mum's agony: "Am I going to be here for the kids?"

NYRIE Contor is living with dying.

The 43-year-old mum of three has just discovered the breast and bone cancer she's been battling for five years has spread into her liver and lungs.

The shocking and unexpected diagnosis means Ms Contor could be dead within two years.

With her life on the edge, the popular Mackay schoolteacher says she will have to pack up her family and move to Adelaide because she fears our region does not have enough in-home palliative care support to ensure she can die at home.

"I was devastated - I was thinking 'Am I going to be here for the kids?'," Ms Contor said of hearing the news in late January.

"It was just horrific.

"When cancer goes into your bones and organs it is a terminal diagnosis."

With just "two to 10 years" left to her, Ms Contor is preparing herself, husband Wayde and children Asher, Hudson and Brynn for the end of her days.

Part of that preparation is making sure the much-loved primary-school creative arts teacher has the option of dying on her own terms and in her own space.

To make this happen, Ms Contor will soon leave the job she loves, pack up her family home and move with her husband and kids to Adelaide.

Ms Contor is saddened at the thought of moving from the community she's called home for 23 years but she believes her extensive family network in South Australia will complement strong metropolitan medical services.

"The Mackay community has been really supportive of me," the Breast Cancer Network Australia community liaison said.

"But the palliative care system (in Mackay) is not 100%.

"I can't imagine having little kids and being here.

"It is going to be extremely difficult.

"I will need to be in Adelaide with my family with palliative care services that can actually meet my needs."

Sadly, Ms Contor's situation is not unique, with research showing 70% of regional Australian wanting to die at home but just 14% having the opportunity to do so.

Most people will die in hospitals or residential care facilities because of the need for complex medical interventions, the limited number of spots in at-home palliative care programs and insufficient family or carer support.

 

Nyrie Contor
Nyrie Contor Tony Martin

Last financial year, the Mackay Hospital and Health Service allocated $412,980 to help its patients through the terminal phase of their illness.

At any one time there are 30 to 40 patients accessing palliative care via the service.

Mackay HHS chief executive Helen Chalmers said about 60% of these patients were supported to die at home.

"The other 40% die in hospital for a variety of reasons including personal preference or something happens with their condition that requires hospital care," Ms Chalmers said.

"Our dedicated palliative care nurse works with the patient and their family or carers to understand their wishes and needs.

"People are referred to this service when their GP or specialist feels they have 12 weeks or less to live.

"We recognise that supporting people at the end of life is a sensitive time in life and we are always striving to see how we can enhance our work in this area."

READ MORE: Why most Mackay residents won't die a good death

Ms Chalmers said the health service's new palliative care nurse navigator helped coordinate medical appointments and connected palliative patients with other services that might be helpful.

"They also work closely with patients to help them understand their condition," she said.

"The nurses from Blue Care and Ozcare regularly case conference with hospital nurses and specialists to ensure our palliative patients are getting the support they need."


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