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September 2021

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Evonne Madden

Stories of dealing with loss and grief inspire

By Lucie van den Berg

In a new book, 62 Australians, including Victorian health professionals, share their inspirational stories of grief.

Among the people featured in Life After are doctors, midwives, volunteers and researchers, who hope their experiences of profound loss will help others.

Western Health respiratory and sleep physician Dr Melissa Yang describes how her husband, Dr Ian Davis, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) at 33 and spent the last seven years of his life raising $40 million for the incurable illness.

Maryann Scales, associate midwife unit manager at Sunshine Hospital, shares the heart-breaking loss of her teenage brother, who died after being struck by a drunk driver.

Professor David Bowtell, a world-leading ovarian cancer researcher from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, explains how the death of both parents to cancer influenced his life and career.

Paw K’pru Say Kaw, a Western Health volunteer, was born in a refugee camp after her parents fled Myanmar in the 1990s.

She shares the traumatic and tragic death of her brother, who did not survive birth.

She pays tribute to her parents, who demonstrated immense strength after enduring horrific hardships.

The book was written by Western Health’s senior public affairs advisor Evonne Madden, after her husband, Paul, died from cancer at 37.

Overwhelmed by grief, she began asking others how they had coped.

As a journalist, it felt like a natural thing to do.

‘I had no idea how to cope with my own feelings and I wanted to understand how others dealt with their grief,’ Ms Madden said.

‘I’m very grateful that the 62 people who have since shared their stories of loss and with such honesty.’

While the book contains some of the most harrowing stories of loss and truly unimaginable grief, the resilience and bravery of the subjects is inspirational.

Half of the proceeds from the book sales will be donated to Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, where Paul received care.

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