Hank Van Mierlo and his wife Jan at home in Gympie. Hank says he wouldn’t be able to cope with his illness without the help of Little Haven Palliative Care.
Hank Van Mierlo and his wife Jan at home in Gympie. Hank says he wouldn’t be able to cope with his illness without the help of Little Haven Palliative Care. Craig Warhurst

Haven a godsend for Hank

HANK Van Mierlo’s life journey isn’t going exactly to plan, but that doesn’t mean he can’t look on the bright side of life.

Just occasionally he’s a little weepy, although more often it’s a warm smile that lights up his face.

Hank’s already beaten cancer once, a battle that saw him receive stem cell therapy and chemotherapy treatment.

“Chemotherapy was not nice,” he said. “You’re put you in a deep, dark forest in the dead of night and there’s a light away in the distance. If you want to survive you have to make for that light, but you haven’t a stitch on and there’s brambles everywhere.”

He takes a deep breath before adding, “technically, I’m a cancer survivor.”

The father of four children and 13 grandchildren adds the “technically” because in a cruel blow, Hank has subsequently been diagnosed with mesothelioma and knows for sure that his time with loved ones is limited.

Thanks in no small part to Gympie’s Little Haven Palliative Care, Hank and his wife Jan are cruising along remarkably well. They enthusiastically endorse the hospice service and the wonderful care they receive.

“Mesothelioma is a death sentence,” Hank states realistically, “there’s no way around it, but Little Haven takes some of the burden off you. It’s a brilliant service.”

The service provides Hank with 24-hour on-call nursing support to manage his shortness of breath and help with pain control, and equipment that helps him stay in his own home, as well as access to a range of complementary therapies.

Some $300,000 needs to be raised every year to ensure Little Haven continues to help those who are affected by a life-threatening illness. There’s a 3000 square kilometre region to look after, says business manager Sue Manton, and no increase in funding from Queensland Health.

To assist their fundraising effort at this year’s Advice Partners Melbourne Cup Luncheon on Tuesday, local financial planner Greg Garner kicked off donations with a $10,000 pledge from the AMP Foundation.

“Little Haven cared for 126 patients last year,” Sue said.

“But the organisation can only offer services through generous community support.”

Gympie Times


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