Why this Rosedale woman is delaying chemotherapy
THERE are people out there who just love animals - and then there is Sandy Brett.
The Rosedale woman is the sole owner and operator of Adopt Me Please, a cat rescue sanctuary she runs from her home.
Just a month ago the sanctuary was home to more than 100 rescue cats and kittens - not to mention the dogs, horses and ponies that also roam the property.
From 5am each morning until late at night, Ms Brett works hard to take care of her animals, which she calls her "children", and couldn't imagine doing differently.
That changed about six weeks ago, when she was told by her doctor she had been diagnosed with cancer.
"I haven't really told people all the ins-and-outs of the diagnosis - I've just said 'I'm not well', I don't really go into depth," Ms Brett told The Observer on Saturday.
"(When you talk about cancer) you get 50 million messages saying 'Why don't you do this, why don't you do that?' Every nutter comes at you with advice.
"I've got enough on my plate, I'm just focused on taking care of the cats."
Despite advice from her doctor she should begin aggressive treatment as soon as possible, Ms Brett has decided to delay the start of her chemotherapy until she has found permanent homes for her cats - putting their welfare before her own as she has done so many times before.
"I've told the doctors point blank I will keep going until each one of these cats has a forever home," she said.
"I won't lead them astray, I won't leave them on their own. There's no one here that will do what I do for them - and if I'm sick (from chemotherapy) then I can't look after them.
"I just want to make sure they're all safe."
Ms Brett has been protective of animals for as long as she can remember.
A former jockey, she ran a horse rescue in New Zealand before coming to Australia, rescuing cats for the last 16 years and landing in Rosedale about a year ago.
"Even as a little kid I was always saving animals and protecting them, patching them up and making them better," she said.
"It's just in my blood.
"If an animal's been cruelly treated, I just cringe, even if I'm just reading about it later."
She believes a large amount of suffering could be alleviated if people took the simple step of having their cats and dogs desexed.
"I get these inundations of kittens - there's just a real problem out there with people being so bloody irresponsible not desexing their animals," she said.
"My vet bill at the moment is sitting around $8000, and that's money I don't have. I'm lucky the vets I go to are so understanding."
It costs about $250 for each cat Sandy takes in to be vaccinated, desexed, wormed, and micro-chipped.
Despite this, she still chooses to adopt them out for a cost of just $80 per cat.
"It's all about finding the right owner for the cat - and you don't always get better owners by charging a lot of money," she said.
"If someone's willing to make that hour-long trip from Gladstone to meet the animals and spend the time to get to know them, they'll take good care of them.
"The cat chooses them, they don't choose the cat."
As her illness progresses, the race for Ms Brett to find the right homes for her cats has become more urgent than ever before.
"I've thought about it from all angles, and it's the right decision," she said.
"Chemo knocks you around like you wouldn't believe, so I've got to try and cut my workload down, give myself a chance to build up my energy so I can take the treatment - but I can't do that until they have homes.
"I am at the hospital every second or third day getting booster shots of B12 and things like that because my energy levels are so low."
"But I will not let them give me the major chemotherapy treatment yet."
Thankfully, people are responding to her calls.
She now has about 35 cats left to adopt out - down from the 110 she had last month.
And she still refuses to adopt them out to homes she thinks they shouldn't go to.
"I'm honest with people, I tell them if the cat or kitten has special needs, if it's the right one for them," she said.
"I want them to have the right home, so when they go into that home they don't suddenly come back or get passed on to someone else. They're there for life."
Ms Brett mostly funds the rescue using the proceeds from her business Sandy's Pet Enclosures, where she builds and installs outdoor enclosures for indoor cats.
At the end of the day it all comes back to the animals.
As her cancer progresses, she is planning on making her last trip interstate in the next few weeks to install several enclosures - in part because of the boost it will give to her rescue efforts.