Karen Wilde was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. She speaks to Tim Auld in Under the Auld Pump about her journey.
Born: Wiltshire, England, on July 27, 1951.
Husband: Bill. Children: Symon, Rebecca plus twins Lucy and Aimee.
Parents: Sylvia and Kevin. Siblings: Judith and Clare.
Education: My secondary school education was at La Retraite Convent in Salisbury, England.
Sporting highlight: I loved playing tennis and hockey many years ago in Warrnambool.
Karen, I take it earlier this month, you were trackside at Flemington when your eldest child Symon saddled up Tralee Rose in the Melbourne Cup. It would have been a big week for the Wilde family?
Tim, it was a big week. The lead up to the Melbourne Cup was very exciting for our family. It was a huge thrill for us to have Tralee Rose in the Melbourne Cup. Symon had purchased Tralee Rose as a yearling and to have her run in a Melbourne Cup was a marvellous achievement and a proud moment for our family.
We were very fortunate because people all around Warrnambool and the south-west district got behind Symon's attempt to have Tralee Rose in the Melbourne Cup. Tralee Rose ran ninth but our family was very proud of her performance. Training horses is not an easy business. Symon is very lucky to have great, loyal staff working with him. Tralee Rose's efforts in the Melbourne Cup took my mind and attention away from other things which have been happening in my life.
What other things have been happening in your life?
We went to the Melbourne Cup and I drove back to a city motel in Lonsdale Street before going to St Vincent's Hospital on the Wednesday morning, where I have an extensive round of blood tests. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma back in 2012 after an incidental finding on a blood test and I was very lucky it was picked up.
Can you please explain what multiple myeloma is?
The disease is not to be confused with melanoma. It's a very different disease. Multiple myeloma is a bone marrow cancer arising from plasma cells, which are normally found in the bone marrow. Plasma cells form part of your immune system. It's an incurable blood cancer. Trials are not easy to get into. I'm fortunate to be involved in a trial now.
Every fortnight I'm at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne for my treatment. I usually go to Melbourne the day before when I have blood tests and get the treatment the next day. I've been extremely lucky to have a great team of medical people, my family and friends helping and supporting me on this journey. John Hounsell and his team in Warrnambool are wonderful and I'm under Professor Hang Quach and her group at St Vincent's.
I had no understanding of what multiple myeloma was until I was diagnosed with the incurable blood disease. The statistics show that 2000 Australians are diagnosed with the incurable blood cancer a year, which equates to 38 people a week. On the scale of things, it's called a "small" cancer when ranked against better known types like breast, prostate and lung cancer, but, as I said previously, it's incurable.
I was put on my first trial in 2018, which kept me stable, but I didn't respond; it just kept the disease at bay. I commenced the second trial in December 2019 and the results are saying I've got a very good partial response. I'm very fortunate that after I have my treatment, I can drive back home to Warrnambool.
I sit back and look with amazement when I'm receiving my treatment at St Vincent's Hospital - the amount of support, care and love that the nurses and doctors give to the patients. We had no support group for people who have multiple myeloma in Warrnambool or district but that's changed around since Rachel McCann moved to Warrnambool last year. Rachel is there, offering support and assistance to people across the district who suffer with the disease.
Karen, have you found your years of being involved as a physiotherapist and in Iyengar yoga has helped you with your disease?
I'm sure having been involved with Iyengar yoga and as a physiotherapist has helped me cope with various issues since I was diagnosed with the disease in 2012.
I'm positive. I don't like dwelling on negatives. It's all about looking for positives and having a joke and a laugh in life. Yoga teaches you discipline. I still love practising Iyengar yoga with a group of my old students - matter of fact, Robyn Beard, who is one of the old students, has an amazing garden out Cottage Rose at Wangoom. She has opened this incredible garden of roses to the public until November 30. All donations from the people who visit will be going to multiple myeloma research at St Vincent's.
When did Bill and you arrive in Warrnambool?
It was in June 1976. We travelled overland in a Ford transit van from England to Singapore then the money ran out. We borrowed money to fly from Singapore to Australia. When we arrived here, we had $20, a set of golf clubs and a suitcase. There had been an advertisement placed in the London Evening Standard paper looking for a physiotherapist at the Warrnambool Base Hospital. Bill and I never knew where Warrnambool was or anything about Warrnambool. Alan Matthews was the manager at the hospital at the time. I wrote to Alan and asked if there were any jobs going for a dentist as that was Bill's profession. Alan replied Viv Balmer was on the board at the hospital and he was a dentist. Alan said Viv was looking for a dentist and Bill took up the job.
The funny thing is, when we arrived at the Tullamarine airport, we never knew how far it was to Warrnambool. The next minute we got tapped on our shoulders and it happened to be Viv and Sue Balmer that had come down to pick us up from the airport. Subsequently, my parents moved from England to Warrnambool to live for eight years from 1991. They were a wonderful assistance when our children were growing up.
What are your memories of growing up in England?
I lived around the corner from Penny Lane, and I was fortunate to go to two Beatles concerts when I was young, and I met Bill in a jazz club in Liverpool in 1971 and it's just off Penny Lane.
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