MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY
3AW MORNINGS WITH NEIL MITCHELL
TUESDAY, 18 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECTS: Isolation; Breast Cancer.
NEIL MITCHELL, HOST: A year, was almost exactly a year ago, I spoke to Peta Murphy, Federal Labor MP for the seat of Dunkley. This wasn't a normal political interview because she had really just been elected and then discovered that she had breast cancer and she's been battling the breast cancer with some success.
She's about to go back to Canberra, which means she's got to be in isolation because, I was talking to Josh Frydenberg about this the other day, the only way to get back into Canberra for the parliamentary meeting is to go into isolation. And she's on the line now, Peta Murphy, good morning.
PETA MURPHY, MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY: Good morning, Neil, how are you? You’re at home as well I just heard.
MITCHELL: That's right. But how are you going? More important.
MURPHY: Oh, thank you. Look, I'm doing alright, it’s been a year since I was on your show, so just over a year since I was re diagnosed. And anyone who's battling a chronic illness would know there’s good days and bad days. But I guess having to physically slow down, at least through social restrictions isn’t a bad thing, it conserves your energy and allows you to concentrate on other things.
MITCHELL: Have you worked in the past year?
MURPHY: I haven’t stopped.
MITCHELL: Oh really?
MURPHY: Oh, I mean, I had a little bit of a break, you know, over Christmas and New Year’s. I look back on it now, I probably could have stopped when I was getting radiation, but I think I was just a little bit determined to prove to myself and to prove to everyone else that it wasn't going to hold me back. You know, in retrospect, I don't think anyone would have minded if I had of taken those two weeks off, but I didn’t.
MITCHELL: Well, you worked through radiation, because that can knock you around, did it knock you around?
MURPHY: Look, it did a bit, it’s cumulative. And I had, I mean, anyone who's run for parliament will tell you this, you know, the campaigning in the lead up to the election – you’re just exhausted anyway. And I had a very bad flu and then I, you know, got elected, first speech, diagnosis of cancer. So, I was feeling pretty exhausted. I didn’t have many reserves in the tank anyway, and then I had the radiation on top of that, though, by the end of last year, I was very exhausted. You know, I don't think I realised it until I did stop and have a couple of weeks off and then went, oh, that's what it feels like - not to be dragging yourself around.
MITCHELL: Are you in remission? Or is it too early to say that?
MURPHY: I will be on treatment for the rest of my life. So, I am doing extremely well and it hasn't spread. And, you know, as my oncologist says, you’re doing really great and just keep going. I'm feeling much better than I was last year, I'm starting to get used to the medication, the treatment, you know it does make me feel a bit crappy let’s be honest, but there's a certain amount of feeling unwell that you can get used to I think.
MITCHELL: Are you able to exercise?
MURPHY: Yes, not like I used to. And that’s been for me, and a lot of women I think would just completely understand this, one of the quite difficult things has been adjusting to the fact that my body is quite different. Not to go into too many gory details, but when you have oestrogen receptor positive cancer, one of the treatments is hormone therapy, which puts you into menopause, chemical induced menopause. With all of those symptoms, your body changes, say putting on weight and not being able to be exercising like I used to. It sounds almost trivial to worry about that, but that is quite a mental adjustment. But I just think exercise is the most important thing for everyone. And people are realising that now right? with isolation and how important it is for people to get your exercise.
MITCHELL: How does this change your outlook on life? I mean, I think I said to you last time, you sure you want to waste your time being a member of parliament? Has it changed your outlook?
MURPHY: Look, maybe a little bit. You know, I'm determined, but I have a long time left to do what I want to do. But, I'm probably more cautious than I was before that time is limited. None of us really like to think about our own fragility, and we like to pretend that we're immortal and having to face the fact that you're not, I think, makes you focus more on getting things done.
Certainly, it shapes my attitude in that way. I think it's probably made me more compassionate and more empathetic. I think intellectually, I knew how to sympathize with people who were going through something that was difficult. But now I find myself getting more upset on behalf of other people than I did before. And I think that hopefully it’s a sign of greater understanding. I let people that I don’t really know hug me now and I never used to do that, I’m not a hugger. Not at the moment.
MITCHELL: Would you stay in politics, do you think?
MURPHY: Yes. I can't think of what I would do if I wasn't.
MITCHELL: You were a very successful barrister.
MURPHY: Thank you. I did alright. But I do think this is my opportunity to be able to contribute to public debate. As you know my side isn’t in government. I mean, Neil, I wouldn't be on your show right now, would I, if I wasn't the Federal Member for Dunkley?
And I wouldn’t have this opportunity, you know, hopefully some people who are listening, can hear me talk and say, well, that's actually how I feel. And it's good to know that someone in a position of so-called leadership understands how I feel.
MITCHELL: It's a good point. And the other point, which I know you were keen to make, is not to ignore symptoms because of the COVID pandemic. If you need to go to a hospital or doctor to get checked, you're got to do that.
MURPHY: That's right. And that's the other thing of course, being in politics means I do have the opportunity to be this spokesperson for issues that are important. The Breast Cancer Network of Australia is, and I'm working with them to try to get this message out, a few months ago, there were 37 percent less diagnoses of breast cancer than that time last year. And normally, you’d say – isn’t that great. But actually, what it means is less people, and it’s predominantly women, are going and getting tested. So there's hundreds and hundreds of women potentially walking around with breast cancer and they don't know it. And we know how important early detection and intervention is. And it's difficult at the moment, I’ve talked about this locally a lot, and I do get people emailing me and calling in to tell me their stories of how hard it is to access health care.
And you and I have talked about this a bit and I know it's something that you're interested in is making sure that people can actually get access to the services when they need it. But it is important that people know the breast screening clinic is still open, the hospitals are still safe, I know there’s outbreaks here and there but the hospitals are still safe and your GP is there. I’ve had telehealth consultations both with my oncologist and, you know, the medicine makes your joints and tendons sore, so I've got a bit of tendonitis and the hand specialist and I had a telehealth consultation where he showed me the rehab exercises. And it was it was terrific. I'm not sure why would ever actually go to the doctor again.
MITCHELL: I think a few doctors think that. The only thing, you're actually isolating before you go to Canberra, when do you go to Canberra?
MURPHY: It's either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, we’re just organising the flights.
MITCHELL: So, you would have had two weeks in isolation?
MURPHY: Two very long weeks.
MITCHELL: Are you in a big house?
MURPHY: No, we don't have a huge house anyway, we have a nice house, but it needs work done. So just before the first lot of social restrictions, my husband and I moved into a rental, one bedroom open planned townhouse while our house got worked on and we haven't been able to move out. So we're now on complete quarantine, and Rod was nice enough to say he would do it with me so I didn't have to be in a hotel room on my own in Canberra, because I'm not one of those politicians that owns a house in Canberra. So, it's Rod and myself and Bert and Ernie, who are seven-month-old Labrador puppies in a one bedroom townhouse with a courtyard.
MITCHELL: I've seen some footage of them rampaging.
MURPHY: Oh, my goodness, they like to rampage. There’s a little, I guess you’d call it an alleyway whatever it is with the fence and concrete down the side of the house, and the dogs and I have been doing or trying to do some shuttle runs to try to get them to calm down. But it's resulted in quite a lot of bruises.
MITCHELL: Labs that age are notorious for their energy but they hit 12 months, start eating, and don’t move for the next 10 years.
MURPHY: I can’t wait for that to happen.
MITCHELL: Have you considered eating them? Because North Korea have started eating their dogs because they’re short of food. Would Bert and Ernie make a good feed, would they?
MURPHY: No, they wouldn’t, no. Don’t even say that.
MITCHELL: Well look, all the best for next week, its great to talk to you and I hope everything continues to go well for you.
MURPHY: Neil, I really appreciate that. Thanks for having me on. Can I just also say, I was listening obviously waiting to come on, Vince, what a legend.
MITCHELL: Oh yeah.
MURPHY: The way he talked so naturally about the most horrible experiences and then talking about how wonderful his life’s been afterwards. I mean, he is just a legend.
MITCHELL: Yeah, there’s a lot of people like him out there. Hey, can we put Bert and Ernie on our Facebook page?
MURPHY: Yes, of course you can. They have their own Instagram account by the way.
MITCHELL: Oh no, thanks so much, take care.
MURPHY: You too. And everyone out there look after yourselves.
MITCHELL: Thank you. Peta Murphy, the Member for Dunkley. I remember talking to her a year ago, just into Parliament and then diagnosed. Bert and Ernie are hilarious, a one bedroom townhouse as she said they’re living there whilst their house is renovated, which they just started before it all hit. And Bert and Ernie, the seven-month-old Labrador pups just running wild.
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