Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman on her property at Ebor. Pic Nathan Edwards.
Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman on her property at Ebor. Pic Nathan Edwards.

Mum survives cancer, drought and bushfires in one year

Drought, cancer and bushfires.

It's a pretty bleak summary of Lisa Hardman's 2019 but the mother-of-three from Ebor - a tiny town 80km east of Armidale - only has optimism for what is ahead.

Behind her is a year of crippling drought forcing her and husband Paul Packham to sell most of their cattle, a breast cancer diagnosis in March, followed by frequent travel for chemotherapy and radiation treatment. And then in November, a bushfire destroyed most of their land.

"If I was going to be totally blunt, I'd say it's been a shit year," Mrs Hardman said.

One woman who helped alleviate the family's intensifying stress was McGrath breast care nurse Rachael Stevens at Armidale Hospital.

Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman with her family, Husband Paul Packham and children Mackenzie, 14 and Cooper, 11, on their property at Ebor, NSW.
Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman with her family, Husband Paul Packham and children Mackenzie, 14 and Cooper, 11, on their property at Ebor, NSW.

"Rachael has always been there," Mrs Hardman said.

"One of the first things she said was I can call any time, even in the middle of the night if I just wanted to leave a message screaming expletives down the phone.

"It was nice to have someone I could talk to without an emotional attachment, especially during the more stressful times. It's quite a special relationship, a special one that's given to you."

Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman with her McGrath Breast Care Nurse Rachael Stevens at Armidale Hospital. Picture Nathan Edwards.
Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman with her McGrath Breast Care Nurse Rachael Stevens at Armidale Hospital. Picture Nathan Edwards.

Mrs Stevens has been a pillar not just for Mrs Hardman but also for Mr Packman and their three children Hannah, 26, Mackenzie, 12, and Cooper, 11.

"After my first dose of chemo, I didn't do really well," Mrs Hardman said.

"By the end of the week I was in a lot of pain, my digestive tract was burning and I couldn't walk. After that I said I'm not doing it, I said I'm finished with it. My husband went to see Rachael and said: 'We have to see to this'.

"And she did, she helped me with side effects and listened to all my fears and concerns and was really there for me. I got through it. She's been an amazing support to all of us."

The property Mrs Hardman lives on with her family borders the gorge near picturesque Ebor Falls.

It was abundant with natural beauty when the couple bought in 2014, but worsening drought transformed the 280ha into dry bushfire fuel.

In the same week she finished radiation therapy in November, a fire raged through the gorge, destroying 200ha of trees and feed on their land.

"It's like a moonscape, just grey ash and dust everywhere," Mrs Hardman said.

McGrath Foundation president and co-founder Glenn McGrath said support networks for breast cancer sufferers were vital.

The Domain Pink Test in Sydney this month once again raised funds to place McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities across Australia.

To donate click here.

Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman on her property at Ebor. Picture Nathan Edwards.
Breast cancer survivor Lisa Hardman on her property at Ebor. Picture Nathan Edwards.

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