Inverell cancer patient can’t find a doctor in town | Northern Beaches Review
Catherine Farthing was living the dream until she received one of the worst calls of her life: “you have cancer”.
Like many plunging into the pandemic-inspired tree change, she and her husband moved from Sydney to the picturesque country town of Inverell in northern New South Wales in November 2021, thinking they had found everything.
Although warned that finding a doctor in Sapphire Town can be tricky, the implications haven’t really hit home.
On the other end of the phone call that changed his life, this reality set in. Hard.
“The surgeon called me and told me over the phone that I had breast cancer,” she said.
“He was lovely and said I needed to make an appointment with my GP to discuss my options.
“That was it. I just started crying and said, ‘I don’t have one’.”
On the surface, Inverell provides an idyllic setting for their retreat. Their beautiful new home is future-proof, with ramps and stairs for when they get older.
Close to their three grandchildren – aged seven, 11 months and three weeks – they cherish the blossoming of these relationships.
But having a friend who battled cancer twice and lost her mother and grandmother to cancer, Ms Farthing knows the importance of staying on top of her health.
Ringing around every doctor’s office in Inverell when she moved, she was told that all doctors’ books were full and no one was taking patients anymore.
“I didn’t realize how much you really needed a doctor until I needed one,” she said.
“To go to the same doctor for 25 years in Sydney, to see him every time you needed to…it was really, really difficult.”
Two and a half hours away, the Tamworth surgeon who called her told her not to worry, comforting her as she cried and told her he would see her.
Her second shock came as she lay in Tamworth Hospital, full of dye. No doctor was available to perform the procedure.
“I cried again. I was in shock.” He was told that a surgeon was arriving from Sydney and would be there shortly.
“Lying on the bed in Tamworth Hospital waiting for the hook, it dawned on me that I never realized how bad the doctor’s situation was.”
Now on the other side of a successful operation on February 24, she says she is “very, very lucky” all it takes now is three weeks of radiotherapy, thanks to early detection.
Again overwhelmed with emotion, Ms Farthing said she now had a GP in Armidale to help her with upcoming check-ups and ongoing treatment processes.
It’s an hour and a half away, and only because her daughter had offered her own place in the books as a patient.
“I worry about the grandchildren. It worries me now, what will happen in the future. We moved here so we could retire. We love the city. We love the shops. We love the relationship that we have with our family.
“But it really makes us question everything, when we can’t get something as basic as a doctor.
“I can drive – what do old people who can’t easily get to Tamworth or Armidale do? It’s heartbreaking.
“Young people also need doctors. They’re not going to stay somewhere or move to where they can’t find one.
“I don’t want to lose this beautiful country life.”