Thirty years ago, Jan Jardine spent her 40s in a job she loved doing social work at the Quamby youth detention center in Canberra.
During that time, the government-run center was doing renovations – taking the part of the ceiling and ripping the tiles off the floor.
"We worked while they were renovated, the kids would sweep the dust and put it in the bin," Ms. Jardine told nine.com.au.
Fast forward to 2014, and for Mrs. Jardine it did not 'click' when her oncologist told her the terrible news – she had mesothelioma, aka, asbestos cancer.
"We had no idea that it was asbestos, and that it was bad for you. Even now when I tell people what I have they look at me blankly, "she said.
Mrs. Jardine was sent to the hospital for a kidney stone, and her left lung has also been captured on the CT scan.
She was told to immediately see her GP because there was something "they did not like the look of."
After a series of tests, the devastated mother of seven and grandmother to 14 was given 12 months to live.
"Telling my family was the hardest part." I called my daughter and told her to gather her brothers and sisters at the house, it was horrible, "said Mrs. Jardine.
It was in her family that the New South Wales grandmother sought solace for the coming weeks and months as she grappled with the fact she would not be around to see the little ones grow up.
But through the pain and sadness, there were moments of pure joy.
"I was having bad nightmares because of the chemo, and my granddad told me; "Do not be frightened of them, grandmother, that's your body fighting the cancer." "
Another cousin, aged nine, would creep in to check her and ask "Would you like an ice-block?" If she noticed she was awake.
The three-year-old followed suit, declaring to his grandmother during some of the darker moments of "Do not worry everybody vomits."
"They give you the fight," a smiling Mrs. Jardine said.
And fight she did – Mrs. Jardine keeps defeating the odds, and defying her doctor's prognosis.
But she knows the reality of the hideous cancer she has.
"It's not a good way to die, you would not want it to be your worst enemy, but you do not throw in the towel and lay down and die, you have to stay positive," she said.
Mesothelioma usually kills quickly, and many with asbestos cancer live no more than 11 months after the diagnosis.
This Asbestos Awareness Week (November 26th – 30th), the focus is on building understanding within the community.
Australia has some of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with one in two homes containing asbestos and two people every day diagnosed with asbestos cancer.
"It's just not something people want to know about," said Rod Smith, from the Bernie Banton Foundation, asbestos awareness organization
Both Rod and his partner, and founder of the Foundation, Karen Banton, lost their previous spouses to asbestos cancer, and are constantly shocked by the lack of public care.
"Because people in their 20s and 30s are generally not suffering with it – for example, if you put a photo of 70 or 80-year-old man or woman there, people just do not look at it, "Mr Smith told nine.com.au.
The couple are particularly worried about the potential dangers thrown up by Australia's obsession with home renovation.
"It's hard for young people to save it for a deposit for a home, so they're usually buying older properties, and they're going to be homes that contain asbestos," said Foundation founder Karen Banton.
"If a home is built before 1990, they need to get it assessed, before they even do any minor jobs around the property," warned Ms. Banton.
IGNORING THE TRUTH
Seven colleagues from Mrs. Jardine, who worked alongside her at the Quamby youth detention center, have died of cancer, but the 72-year-old never found out if it was the same type as her.
She did receive some compensation because she contracted cancer while working for ACT government, however, by her own admission, "it's not millions that's for sure."
She has been in recent years reconnect with a former prisoner from her days at the Canberra jail, who was saddened and shocked to hear about her diagnosis.
The man had gone to turn his life around, starting his own business, but the couple were wondering who else the dreaded mesothelioma might have touched during their time in the halls of Quamby.
WorkSafe ACT told nine.com.au, "We're not immediately aware of complaints by former workers at Quamby when it comes to asbestos exposure."
"Historical operations may intersect with the period before the self-government in ACT, which would make finding historical records more challenging," states the statement.
Mrs Jardine has been shocked by the lack of knowledge about her disease, and people need to think about it not only for themselves, but for their families.
"If you do not care for your own life, care about your family. Your kids will hug you, your wife will wash your clothes, you're exposing them, "she said.
"All it takes is one fiber with a hook in it," she said.
In one particularly devastating incident, the Narooma woman recalls confronting a worker doing her homework.
"I told him" you should be wearing protective clothing there could be asbestos, "he told me he did not believe in that" BS "," said Mrs. Jardine.
"I'm dying from it, and you're telling me it does not exist?" Mrs. Jardine told the man.
Mrs Jardine has not let her death sentence stop her.
She and husband Mick have traveled to New Zealand, Tasmania, and Kimberley in recent years and are currently planning a cruise to the east coast.
"We have friends who call our home our" holiday house "," giggled by Mrs. Jardine.
Between that and the constant flow of weddings, christenings, 21st birthdays and preschool Christmas concerts Mrs. Jardine has a lot to live for.
"Please, do not be complacent," she warned.
"There are no tests that can be done, because it takes so long to find asbestos cancer, so the community needs to stay vigilant," she said.
If you have been diagnosed with asbestos-related disease, the Bernie Banton Foundation operate a 24/7 helpline: 1800 031 731.
Contact the reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org
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