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Living a better life with a serious illness

Last year Sasja found that his lung cancer had returned. Tony, a local Morwell palliative care volunteer, visited him every Tuesday.

Daily life was getting harder for Sasja, a Latrobe Valley caravan builder in his forties. Cancer and chemo had weakened him so much that he would run out of energy trying to heat up canned food in the microwave.

“I couldn’t cook, clean or do my laundry. The palliative care people in Morwell suggested I consider moving to an aged care facility and I decided to do that.

That’s when I met Tony. He helped shift my belongings. As I don’t have enough room for my collection of war models and star trek spaceships here, Tony is looking after them for me,” said Sasja.

Friendship makes a difference

It isn’t easy being a relatively young man with many interests but very little energy due to a serious illness. Boredom is always a risk. Sasja looks forward to Tony’s visits every Tuesday.

“Having Tony come around and talk to me is a big thing. We talk about news, sport, my health and all kinds of things. If I need something done, Tony often drives me to the shops at Moe. I don’t have the energy to catch the three buses there and back,” said Sasja.

A better life

“Some days are better than others, but my health has improved since being here. I’ve put on weight. They can keep a close eye on me and manage my pain,” said Sasja.

Tony agreed: “I could see a physical difference in Sasja within two weeks of his move to aged care. It has helped him tremendously. He is sleeping and eating better. The staff here can do things he was struggling to do on his own. Sasja really picked up.”

Giving and receiving

“Giving back is what inspires me to volunteer. I would say my role is to be a friend,” says Tony, who has been a palliative care volunteer for many years, having retired early.

“It also broadens my perspective. Sasja has invited me into his life. I’ve been able to talk to him about things he’s done in his life that I haven’t done in mine. I can get into Sasja’s shoes to some degree, to understand more about how he feels. It helps me to be a good friend to him and our friendship enriches my life,” said Tony.

Very sadly, Sasja died a few weeks after this interview. Vale Sasja.

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