Community & Business

12 March, 2023

Family set to race in honour of Wendy to help others in need

THE family of a woman who died 12 years to the day after completing her first bout of cancer treatment will take on the challenge of competing in the Great Wheelbarrow Race this May to raise funds to make the cancer nightmare easier for others.

Dean Mitchell, Nadine Cockrem and son Cash, Brent Mitchell have banded together to compete in this year's Great Wheelbarrow Race in honour of Wendy Mitchell.
Dean Mitchell, Nadine Cockrem and son Cash, Brent Mitchell have banded together to compete in this year's Great Wheelbarrow Race in honour of Wendy Mitchell.

Wendy Mitchell’s daughter Nadine and sons, Dwayne and Brent, together with their dad Dean set up a fundraising page through the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation and have challenged each other to participate in the Wheelbarrow Race in honour of Wendy and the region’s pioneers.

“We first contacted the foundation because we wanted to set up a team in the Wheelbarrow Race with funds going towards the Cancer Care Ward at Cairns Hospital but then we heard about the Cancer Care Hub campaign and decided to get behind it,” Nadine said.

The family’s fundraising has so far reached $8600.

The Foundation’s Cancer Care Hub is a $1.5 million fundraising campaign to help bring cancer care in the region to the next level.

Foundation fundraising and marketing manager Glenys Duncombe said Wendy’s story was heartbreaking but the family’s motivation was incredible.

“It’s families like this, that we want to help and we will. The campaign will result in more chemotherapy chairs, increased pharmacy capacity to make chemo on-site, increased tele-oncology services, more clinical treatment rooms, and relocating the Cancer Care Ward to level 2 of D Block at Cairns Hospital, making it more accessible to the Liz Plummer Cancer Care Centre,” she said.

“This also will mean greater areas for patients and families together, particularly in a beautiful outdoor area.”

Wendy was first diagnosed with throat cancer at the age of 45.

“The cancer care unit was not available in Cairns in 2010, so Mum and Dad travelled to Townsville for treatment,” Nadine said.

“Mum underwent aggressive treatment, she had over half of her teeth removed and started on a combination of chemotherapy and radiation for six weeks.”

The family went on to welcome 10 grandchildren and Wendy enjoyed working as a jillaroo after two years of treatment.

“On January 3, three weeks before she passed away, mum was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. A steep decline in her pain and wellbeing caused mum to be admitted to the Cairns Cancer Care Ward on 17 January,” Nadine said.

“Nurses and hospital staff proved exceptional and beyond what we could ever have expected in their care and devo-tion to our mother. It was one of our mother's special abilities to make everything she did beautiful and to help anyone in need if she had the chance.

“My father and brothers have challenged each other to participate in the 2023 140km Wheelbarrow Race in a trio to honour our mother and the pioneers who pushed their belongings in wheelbarrows in search of fortune.

“Mum’s second diagnosis was pancreatic cancer which had metastasised to her liver and lymph nodes surrounding. She ended up in Mareeba Hospital on about 29 December suffering pain.

“She did previously have weight loss but because she was a jillaroo it is expected she will have a little bit due to the nature of her work. She chalked it up to maybe having a bit of a tummy bug, she was good at not making a fuss.

“Mareeba doctors put Mum on Endone and asked her to come back about three days later for an ultrasound. She didn’t make it that long and ended up back 24 hours later for stronger pain medication.

“On 3 January she had the ultrasound, and it was found she had lesions on her liver. A biopsy on 10 January determined it had come from the pancreas.

“Our beautiful mother passed away on 27 January after her second battle with cancer. At the age of 45, our mother was diagnosed with throat cancer and went into remission after two years of fighting.

“During the last 10 years, Mum was cancer-free, and we never imagined any such tragedy would occur again.”

Visit to donate to the Wendy Mitchell page.


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