Love is at the end of Trudy's bucket list road trip
CRUISING down the Great Ocean Road with her husband at the wheel, Trudy Crowley is quietly coming to terms with being "at the end of the line".
News over Christmas that her ovarian cancer had spread and become immune to treatment made the Mackay grandmother fast-track her plans.
The staunch cancer advocate is now on her 'bucket list' road trip, saying she's "not ready to wave the white flag just yet".
"I had my last cancer treatment just before we left, but my cancer marker has jumped from 60 up to 90, which is quite a big jump, so that's telling me that the chemo isn't working," Trudy says, her voice hoarse as the rental car's GPS barks directions in the background.
"My oncology doctor told me there's only a 20 per cent chance it would work, but I said to him I'm not ready to give up ... 20 per cent is still better than nothing."
When Trudy and husband Damian land back in Mackay on February 18, she will have a PET scan to see if that 20 per cent is in her favour. "If it's not, then that's it," she says. "It's ceasing all chemo and into palliative care then, so it's just a matter of living out the time that I have."
When she received the devastating news in December, her doctor gave her "three to six months"; it was hard to swallow.
"It was harder I think being told a second time around because now I know I've exhausted everything and that's where I'm at with it all," Trudy says.
"This is the end of the line."
But, she is determined to spend her last months "living".
Her bucket list trip
Trudy and Damian are fitting in as much of Australia as they can in 17 days, "trying to get away and tick this bucket list off and see as much as I possibly can".
"We arrived in Adelaide on Friday and then we're doing the Great Ocean Road, (Thursday) we get into Melbourne and I'll catch up with the girls from Ovarian Cancer Australia who I've been working closely with over the past two years and then we fly from Melbourne to Tasmania, explore there and then come home," Trudy says.
Because of her health, she was unable to get travel insurance to jet off overseas.
"It's made me focus on what we have here in Australia and it's beautiful to explore what's in our own backyard," Trudy says.
"The Great Ocean Road, pictures don't do it justice. It's great to see it with my own eyes and experience it all. The weather has turned it on, 20 degrees and no wind, sun and beautiful so it's a stunning day."
While she also has other travel adventures to conquer - "a trip to Sydney and sailing around the Whitsundays" - perhaps her most important item she wants to tick off doesn't cost a thing.
"I want to spend as much time as I can with my children, my grandchildren and Damian," Trudy says, her voice slightly wavering again.
"That's the biggest bucket list item of all: making sure I spend that quality time with them."
She's grateful she was able to see her youngest son Levi get married in August, and welcome her two grand-daughters into the world (Ava, who's three and a half months old and Emerson who just had her first birthday) as well as spoil four-year-old grandson Ryan.
"I couldn't have got through any of this without them. My family is the world to me," Trudy says.
She's finding it hard telling people she's near the end.
"When you're on this journey knowing there's no (positive) outcome, you speak to people who say 'oh it's okay, have some green tea' and it's like... 'I'm actually dying'," Trudy says matter-of-factly.
"People don't want to deal with it, and it's a fear to know you're dying and there's nothing I can do. Green tea isn't going to make a difference.
"It's just a matter of living out these days while I'm fit enough, but I can feel my body's slowing down, my breathing is getting laboured and I'm on more pain killers."
About ovarian cancer
February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month; a time that Trudy says is important in reducing the number of women dying from the disease that is claiming her own life. "It's been a great journey for me that people know a bit more about what teal is," she says.
"Two years ago, I didn't know where there was support and no one wanted to talk about it. I still get messages from women who contact me asking 'I've got these symptoms, what do I do?' so people are taking notice and taking the time to listen to their bodies."
About 280 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually in Queensland, yet only one in two of those women will survive five years.
For many people diagnosed with ovarian cancer like Trudy, the symptoms are vague and hard to recognise, making early detection difficult.
Trudy, then 43, experienced bleeding during sex as the first symptom and then other symptoms that pointed to a kidney or urinary tract infection before it all came to a head on February 28, 2016.
"I woke up with a big lump on the left side of my neck," she says.
The mum of two was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just a month later on March 31, 2016.
The cancer had spread all through her lymphatic system - it was stage four, grade three, and inoperable.
Initially given 12 months to live, Trudy underwent chemotherapy in the Mater Hospital and has been undergoing treatment and scans ever since.
Making a difference
Trudy received a phone call this week from Ovarian Cancer Australia support manager Sue Hegarty with the news that Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had pledged $3 million towards improving ovarian cancer detection.
The Traceback program will see thousands of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer tested to see if they are hidden carriers of the gene that can cause the deadly disease.
Trudy made a moving speech in Canberra on Teal Ribbon Day last year about her personal journey, in front of federal politicians.
She's also raised more than $100,000 for cancer research through her Nude Lunch events in just two years, with $30,000 going towards palliative care beds for the Mater Hospital.
It's a sad reality that soon, Trudy will have to use one of the very beds she raised money to provide.
Along with the bigger picture, Trudy is still heavily involved in Nude Lunch, and is hoping to be healthy enough to speak at a high tea on February 28.
"The biggest thing I've learnt is, don't think you can't make a difference just because you live in a small town," she says.
"It's a matter of knocking on those doors, we can still have what the big cities have ... knock on the doors and make sure it helps others."
And helping others become more aware about cancer will no doubt be Trudy Crowley's legacy.
"Some people (fighting cancer) aren't fortunate enough to have beautiful families like I do; and it's a lonely journey for some of them so if I can help make it a little easier for them it makes everything worthwhile," she says.