The day after the AOTY awards were announced in Canberra last week, one reporter from the ACT phoned me and asked me what it felt like to be one of the losers. I was one of 32 state winners, and frankly, with or without an award, still feel like a winner, and have never felt like a loser, although for many years my self esteem was very low. Not one person who was nominated, nor one state winner in any category does their work to be named a winner. After all, it is not a race around the oval at school, for the Grade 6 cup!
We all do it to make a difference in the lives of others, the lives of our fellow Australians, and some of us work to help improve the lives of people all around the world. I said to the reporter, I was one of 32 state winners, and each person in each category was hoping each other became the national over all title holder. It was a privilege and honour to be recognised amongst this group of committed Australians.
But, there has been a very dark side to winning…
The following blog comes from my private therapeutic writings about the whole experience, and apart from the incredible support of many genuine family, friends and colleagues, it has been the only way I have maintained any sanity in the last few weeks.
The biggest lesson being a state winner has taught me, is there are a small percentage of very unkind Australians, some who I am either related to, or who used to be ‘close friends’, and I have discovered now are either jealous, have a major dose of passive competitiveness, or who are simply just very nasty or sick people and I was too blind to notice.
Daring not to die, it seems, is the preference of a malicious few.
This whole experience has taken a serious toll on my physical and emotional health, and my ability to ‘paddle’, and although initially I felt the need to keep publicly silent about it, I no longer feel that is the best way forward. I will not remain silent, as the story needs telling. Of course, my husband and others have said, say nothing and just move on, but my way of healing is through writing, and honestly sharing my experiences, which as I have also discovered over the many years of publicly blogging, very often helps others.
A ‘Senior Reporter’ from The Advertiser had threatened to publish an exposé about me before Christmas that I was a fraud, and had never had any health issues including dementia, allegations made to him by ‘close friends and family’. Once he realised he could not write a story exposing me as a fraud, he still wrote a very unpleasant story, that could only hurt my family, and was a subtle character assassination of me anyway. Unfortunately, as always, the minority make the majority of good journalists look bad. Shame on him for being so hurtful to my parents, husband and sons. Shame on The Advertiser for publishing it, but then, as someone said to me yesterday, and I quote: “they never buy The Advertiser, or any other Newscorp publication anyway, as it is full of rubbish”.
The two articles about me, including one with this in the title, ‘… Lead candidate in the Australian Of The Year Awards’, was filled with gossip, half-truths, some outright lies, and some truths, and even focused on my failed relationships, rather than the reason for the National Australia Day Council recognising me for my work in dementia. He didn’t even get my mothers name right!
Sadly, I felt obligated to provide many years of very private confidential personal medical records of evidence to prove the many illnesses that I have been diagnosed with over a vast number of years, but obviously (thankfully???) not died from. My Neurologist also was very angry, as he justifiably felt as if his diagnosis was being threatened. In fact, I was bullied, possibly even blackmailed (comments from a Barrister) before Christmas into feeling the need to invite someone into my neurologist’s appointment to ‘get it from the horse’s mouth’ so to speak. I didn’t need to go back to proving the loss of a twin pregnancy, but did offer to! There was no hesitation in doing this, as I have nothing to hide, and the defamatory allegations made about me, by these so-called ‘close friends and family’, were in fact, a pack of spiteful, perhaps jealous, and definitely malicious lies.
I did wonder, what the hell does whether someone likes or hates me have to do with why I became the SA Australian Of The Year.
My global work in supporting people diagnosed with a chronic, progressive and terminal illness to live better lives is what should have been written about. I do not believe the reporter bothered to consider, when his sources sought anonymity, the source’s motives’, which is also a serious breach of the journalistic code of ethics.
But what the reporter did do, was ‘out’ one of his sources; whether on purpose or accidentally she was quoted as saying “I prefer to remain anonymous”, but there is only one person who has always called me ‘Quinnie or Q’, (in fact, she nicknamed me that in my early 20’s), and she knows who she is. Although I cannot prove it, I now have a reasonable idea of who has not only betrayed me, but defamed me in such a litigious way. The other person or persons who have defamed me, well, I can guess, but don’t actually care to know as have too much important and positive work to do, and so many brilliant friends, they are of no importance in my life at all.
At least now I realise why a minority of my family and friends have ‘quietly walked away’, and it obviously had nothing to do with feeling sad about me having dementia and not knowing what to say!!! The family member or members who defamed me, simply hurt our parents.
The ‘proof of the allegations’ the reporter referred to, were emails I had sent providing health updates that a few close family and friends had asked me to send. I therefore, already had some idea of who his ‘sources’ were. These emails were not proof of lies, but details of the various health issues I have had to face, alongside my husband and children. They are the people who have sat in doctor’s rooms with me, and we have all supported each other as we have faced health and other family issues together. They are, understandably and not surprisingly, delighted I did not die, delighted the diagnosis of MND was either wrong or remarkably did not progress.
Mostly, the very trashy articles (there were two versions online), are not what I would consider professional, in fact not even real journalism, really hurt my parents and my husband and children. Someone even said, “Wow, would they have preferred you had died, and left your boys, especially your biological son Charles, without a mother?!”
Quite a few reporters and journalists have contacted me this last week, and one very prominent and respected journalist said, “he really hoped I wouldn’t put them all into the puerile low hanging basket of fruit this reporter has made all journalists look like they fit into”.
Of course, the same day these trashy print media articles were published, The Studio on Channel 10 also aired a positive interview with Ita Buttrose, a friend and colleague, and fellow dementia advocate, focusing on my good work and positive attitude. Her message to me on the day of the announcement of the AOTY national award, sent at 3:18pm was “Good luck tonight. I’ll have all my fingers and toes crossed for you. Love, Ita.”
Managing serious health issues with holistic and other lifestyle changes has been done for centuries in non western cultures, and as western medicine is failing so many of us, more of us are moving to this approach to health. As my health providers had ignored my very real health issues, or told me I was overstressed, or imagining the symptoms for more than 30 years, and then I was ultimately diagnosed me with a brain malformation requiring neurosurgery, I have had little faith in western medicine. Many friends of mine are the same, and one of my sons has rejected western medicine almost entirely, with incredible results in improving his overall health. As I recall, one of my Godchildren who had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue in her teens and was not responding well to western medical support, her mother resorted to using holistic health to heal her. Holistic health works for many more illnesses than chronic fatigue.
My General Physician and General Practitioner were truly shocked by such malicious defamatory allegations made by so-called ‘close friends and family’, and the one word they both used was ‘betrayed’. My Neurologist was highly offended, and among a few other reactions, was justifiably angry that laypersons would doubt his ability to diagnose. I have required medical support to get through this from an emotional perspective, and my ability to ‘paddle’ and function for quite a few weeks has been seriously impacted. It was like someone had taken away my wheelchair or prosthetics (if I had lost my legs). One man I met last week, who has been to Afghanistan as a soldier a number of times, said “it sounded like being at war, and you were being attacked, in the same way I was exposed to there.”
I’ve had some incredible support over the last few weeks, including from my many genuine family and friends and a large number of people who work in the dementia sector, academics, care partners, people with dementia, respectable and ethical journalists, publishers, and many others here and online, and from my DAI family. One friend wrote;
“Kate, read today’s articles in the Advertiser and just wanted to let you know we are with you, love you and respect everything you do! So the very best of luck for the 26th”, and from the same person, after I replied: “… It makes my heart ache for you and Peter. There is no justice when someone can maliciously defame you for no other reason than notoriety! Please, if there is anything we can do, just let us know (name withheld for privacy)”
This experience has had a positive outcome, and one of them is it resulted in a very thought-provoking Dementia Alliance International Webinar session held recently by DAI titled “But you don’t look like you have dementia!” which will be published on YouTube in a few weeks.