Heartbreak and happiness

Most Australians remember Stuart Diver as the sole survivor of the 1997 Thredbo landslide.

However, many don’t know that 18 years after his wife Sally was killed in the landslide, Stuart’s second wife, Rosanna, died from breast cancer.

Today, Stuart is raising his daughter Alessia in Thredbo.

Stuart sat down with The Beacon to talk about how he’s coped with the challenges he’s faced, and why’s he’s come on board as a BCNA Ambassador.

Thinking back to your physical and emotional recovery after the Thredbo landslide, what helped you in this time?

The support and love of family and friends was very crucial in the early stages. Also the support and care provided by medical professionals, both from a physical standpoint as well as looking after my mental health, was crucial. I was lucky to surround myself with such great people. It is very difficult to go through major trauma on your own.

How did you cope with being a survivor when 18 others did not survive?

It was a very lonely experience. I never felt any guilt and I vowed to live my life to the fullest in memory of everyone who had died.

How did you move on from the trauma of the landslide?

You really don’t have any other option except to move on with your life. Everyone moves at a different pace, so there is no right or wrong timeframe. You never really totally deal with such trauma and loss, so it is a constant work in progress to deal with the fallout. My mental health is of paramount importance to me and I work very hard to make sure I am giving myself every opportunity to be in a good emotional place. I made a conscious decision to live my life in the most positive manner I possibly could and to do all that I could to live a fulfilling life.

How did you feel when Rosanna was diagnosed with breast cancer?

I was devastated. Having already lost my wife Sally, I definitely started to think that the world was being unfair. It wasn’t long before my mind clicked into a more positive path and I realised that the best thing for me to do was to support Rosanna and immerse myself in making sure that she had every opportunity to live a great life, which was very difficult at times.

What helped Rosanna after her diagnosis?

Support of family, friends and medical professionals. Also knowledge and information, as this gave us the power to make good decisions in regards to her treatment and wellbeing. We made a decision to throw everything we could at her treatment and recovery and we focused all of our energy on that.

What support did you need after Rosanna’s diagnosis?

The main support I needed was for my mental wellbeing. I used the services of my psychologist, as did Rosanna, which helped greatly with strategies to get through each stage of Rosanna’s treatment and recovery.

How did you approach Rosanna’s diagnosis with Alessia?

Rosanna was in remission when Alessia was born. We only started to talk to Alessia about her mum’s breast cancer when it returned and started to affect her health. Alessia was only two when this occurred, so we kept it simple and truthful – we let her ask the questions. As Rosanna’s health declined, we used my psychologist with Alessia to give us the tools to deal with the fact that her mum was more than likely going to die. It was the best decision we made, as Alessia is now seven and is a beautiful, emotionally balanced girl.

Do you ever feel angry about the challenges you’ve had to face?

Anger is a natural response to challenges and I have definitely felt anger towards my situation at times, but it is such a wasted emotion. I prefer to focus on what will make my life and the lives of those around me a more positive experience. You do need to spend some time dwelling on the negatives as long as you are using it as a platform to focus on the more positive things in life.

Why have you decided to become an ambassador for BCNA?

BCNA is an amazing organisation that is perfectly positioned to help everyone who is affected by breast cancer. The services it provides are integral to the overall wellbeing of people as they move through the various stages of treatment and recovery.

What do you look forward to?

Getting out of bed every morning and living life to its fullest.

If you would like to hear more from Stuart, he will be one of the special guest speakers at the Pink Lady Luncheons in Sydney (1 May) and Brisbane (23 May). Find out more at bcna.org.au.
Stuart Diver and his daughter Alessia

Stuart Diver and his daughter Alessia

Issue 82
Autumn 2018