When PT Hirschfield was told she had terminal cancer two years ago, she decided to spend the time she had left exploring the ocean.
The Melbourne-based diver, 45, was in the south-west at the weekend to share her story and join other divers in Port Fairy and Portland as part of International Women’s Dive Day.
“I was first diagnosed with endometrial cancer six years ago but two years ago, after lots of surgeries, they told me that I was considered terminal and I had palliative radiation and that it was time for me to give up work and do what made me happiest and to tick everything off my bucket list,” Ms Hirschfield said.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life at that point. One of my dive buddies said ‘if I were you I would dive every day’.”
So Ms Hirschfield decided she would dive as much as she could, which is between three and five times a week.
It’s a journey that has taken her on dive trips across the world including the Philippines, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Bali and around Australia.
She joined 22 other divers at South Beach Port Fairy on Saturday, and at Lee breakwater in Portland on Sunday.
On Saturday night, the underwater photographer and videographer shared her story at a dinner in Warrnambool hosted by Daktari Surf and Dive shop.
“For me, terminal cancer was not so much a death sentence as a wake-up call to start really living everyday more fully and doing what I was passionate about and sharing that with other people,” Ms Hirschfield said.
“It’s like I’ve got a better life now than what I had before when I was working everyday and not doing what I was most passionate about.”
Without the palliative radiation, doctors said she would have six to 12 months. “With the palliative radiation, they didn’t know how much time they would could buy me. They said it might be one year, two years, three years,” she said.
“They were able to shrink a grapefruit 10cm-sized tumour down to a golf ball size. That gave me much greater quality of life and lot more freedom to be able to travel and get in the water as much as possible.
“They can’t do chemotherapy, and they can’t do any more surgery. Palliative radiation is the strongest radiation you can have and you can’t have any more radiation in that area once you’ve had that.”
She is now monitored at the Peter Mac institute every six months.
Ms Hirschfield, who also writes for scuba magazines, has a blog at www.pinktankscuba.com and a facebook page where she shares her adventures.
“There’s lots of diving in this region. It’s definitely a gem of an area for anyone wanting their first experience underwater,” she said.