As mum Sandra fights the biggest of health battles, her amazing life becomes a biography
Read time: 2 min. read
Sandra Campbell has lived a life packed with travel adventures and family joy in her 47 years – unfortunately, a life-limiting cancer diagnosis has put a question mark over what is ahead.
Sandra’s adventures have been chronicled in a 35,000-word biography, produced by a dedicated volunteer as part of HammondCare’s Life Stories program.
Sandra, now receiving palliative care with HammondCare, had her life carefully recorded in interviews over several months with volunteer biographer Sarah Mellowes. Sarah’s biography will be a forever memory of her wonderful life story for her two children, Allegra, 14, and Xavier, 12.
Sarah is one of about 30 volunteers in the HammondCare Life Stories program that produce about 35 biographies a year for palliative care patients.
Sarah, 35 and herself a mum, has taken time out from her corporate lawyer career to be involved in the Life Stories program while she simultaneously undertakes her Master of Laws at the University of Sydney.
“I am amazed at how strong Sandra is. No matter what she is going through she is eternally positive. I admire her,” she said.
“We have laughed together and cried together.”
Sandra life story includes arriving in Sydney to study business level English at the University of NSW in 2000. By the end of the year, she had a Spanish-language interpreter role at the 2000 Olympic Games in the Athletes Village.
It was the start of a journey with the Olympics movement that saw her participate in Event Management roles at five separate summer and winter games around the globe.
“It is amazing to be part of a selective group of people from around the world, coming together for a large sporting event,” Sandra said.
A pancreatic stage 4 cancer diagnosis in November 2021 means she has no idea of what the future might bring, although medical trials are offering hope.
A year after the Sydney Games she became flatmates with an Australian bloke named Glenn who later become her husband. Beachside Sydney became her new home where they raised Allegra and Xavier.
After being inspired by the ABC TV’s Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds series, Sarah found Hammond Care’s Life Stories program.
When Sarah initially discussed the writing role with HammondCare volunteer manager Leanne Broadhead, she asked not to be allocated a younger person with children as it was too close to her own circumstances. But she is now delighted to have been placed with Sandra.
The two women live in the same Narrabeen neighbourhood and have built quite a connection, including taking on some ocean swimming.
Sandra is Sarah’s second Life Stories project after her first with a 96-year-old lady. This biography was markedly different.
“With Sandra, there’s still so much more she wants to do, grow old with her husband, see her children get married and have children,” Sarah said.
For Sandra, the Life Stories program has been a wonderful time of self-reflection of good and challenging times.
“I like the idea of creating memories for my kids to have forever. You never know what is going to happen,” she said.
“It has helped me going through a difficult time, realising that in the middle of sadness there are also so many positives and great memories.”.
HammondCare General Manager Health and Palliative Care Andrew Montague said it was a privilege to offer people with life-limiting illnesses the opportunity to have their stories, memories and messages recorded.
“This is an innovative part of the care provided by HammondCare to ensure as many people as possible can tell their life story and have ongoing memories that will be available for their loved ones,” Dr Montague said.
Learn more about volunteering with HammondCare as a Life Stories volunteer