Carmel believes rural life the key to leukaemia recovery
Carmel Bainbridge made some radical changes to her life after treatment for breast cancer more than 20 years ago. To get closer to the “natural side of things” she moved from living in a Perth beachside suburb, to the outskirts of the city, after finding a beautiful 12-acre property. Her idyllic rural lifestyle on Mimsbrook Farm,
was adversely affected at the beginning of 2010 by her diagnosis with chronic
lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
When Carmel first moved to the farm, her intention was to simply enjoy living there.
However, discovering the property had rich flood plain soil, and seeking organic food for her own health and wellbeing, she “started reading up” on biodynamic farming. There were already 500 citrus trees on the property and Carmel started growing seasonal vegetables. Her little garden got bigger and bigger and she got full biodynamic certification. Her son, Steve, who lives in Perth, helps her to run the farm and the organic shop they own in the city.
Carmel indulged her love of animals and has three cows, a minature pony, a couple
of sheep and 120 chickens to keep her company. As well, her beloved kelpie, Skipper, is always by her side and rides with her on the quad bike she bought to help her get around the property. “They’re purely my pets, but I use the cow manure to fertilise and they all just live their lives in luxury. They’re wonderful for me,” said Carmel, 74, who believes in the importance of “finding something that gives you a lovely feeling in your heart”.
“All this has been amazingly healing – I feel great every day.” The house on her property was originally “very ordinary”, so Carmel undertook renovations and extensions and created bed and breakfast accommodation so she could share her “little farm” with guests. Recalling when she’d been diagnosed with CLL, over the
previous two years it had taken her a long time to get well after a cold, and she noticed she felt tired and lacked her usual energy.
“On the farm, there’s always something to knock yourself with,” said Carmel, and when a wound from a stick wouldn’t heal, she went to the doctor and that’s when CLL showed up in a blood test. She was treated from April to July last year with four doses of chlorambucil. The first dose included prednisolone but this was discontinued because Carmel said the drug “scrambled my brain, making me feel agitated and it was difficult to do the farm’s bookwork”.
“When first diagnosed, I didn’t know anything about CLL or what I was in for,” said Carmel. “I looked on the Net and called the Leukaemia Foundation to see if I could get a newsletter. “The lass I spoke to was very helpful. It was heart-warming to
talk to someone about my concerns and she told me about an information day. Later I got a call to see if I would go. “When I said transport was an issue, they had one of their volunteers come and pick me up. I was treated like royalty and
I met quite a few nice people and had afternoon tea, and then I was taken home.
“I was blown away with this kindness. It was fantastic. I can’t speak more highly of the Leukaemia Foundation. I went through breast cancer without any support and it was very clinical and frightening.” Having CLL has made Carmel feel “a bit
vulnerable”. “It’s a whole new ball game and it affects how you feel and how you cope. I’m just getting my head around how this jolly leukaemia is affecting me,” she explained. “I’m having to make some tough decisions and I’m learning to let go and slow down. I don’t have a choice, because physically I can’t do what I was doing.
Steve is having to do much more on the farm and now I am out of the picture in so many ways,” said Carmel, who previously was kept busy ordering seedlings, overseeing and helping with the planting and harvesting, and packing boxes of organic produce for customers at their shop.
“I realise I have to be cautious now too, and not put myself in situations where I could have an accident. Any tiny scratch becomes a major issue. I’m continuing with a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition, eating lots of fresh vegies and salads. I keep the mindset right and always have some plan for the next day."
Since finishing her CLL treatment last July, Carmel has been on a cruise to Japan and eastern Asia with her other son, Jeff, and four of her grandchildren. And earlier this year, Carmel took Skipper with her when she spent two weeks in Brisbane staying with Jeff’s family. “I had a beautiful rest and I’ve come back feeling 100%,”