The Trumper family: from left to right, Renee, Josh, Tracey, Mark, and Courtney.
It began as a routine cold caught in the wake of an overseas family holiday. But after visiting several doctors and undergoing chest x-rays, Tracey Trumper, wife of Mark Trumper – a Group Insurance Manager at AGL – was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer.
Tracey would require chemotherapy and expensive targeted treatments – and even then, her chances of survival were deemed to be slim. For her husband Mark, who had been focusing on progressing his corporate career, Tracey’s diagnosis – and the challenging years that would follow – shifted his entire outlook on work, family, and indeed life itself.
This is Mark’s story
Tracey and I met in 1990 when we were in our mid-twenties. We were both on board a ‘Fairstar, the Fun Ship’ cruise around the South Pacific - and the rest, as you might say, is history. We married in 1993, and had three children together – Renee, Courtney and Josh. We were always an incredibly close-knit and fun-loving family, and Tracey was the heart and soul behind everything we did. She always organised our family and home life, while I supported her and chipped in as much as possible.
In January 2016, after returning from a family trip to the US, Tracey visited her doctor with cold-like symptoms. We soon discovered this ‘cold’ was, in fact, a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer. Tracey had never smoked and always led an incredibly active life, so this diagnosis came as a complete shock to us all. But we believed we could fight through the cancer with the appropriate treatments.
Tracey started chemotherapy straight away, undergoing six weeks of intensive treatment followed by several months at a slightly lower dose. During this treatment she lost some of her hair, but her spirits remained high and she was able to stay incredibly active – eventually even returning to her job managing a local creche.
Tracey’s courage, positivity and strength were to be admired, and during this, the most difficult time of her life, she always chose to remain hopeful.
I had always been a hard worker myself, always keen to climb the next leg of the corporate ladder. But during these early months after Tracey’s diagnosis, I realised my family – my wife and my kids – were the most important priority for me, and that I would do anything to make sure they were healthy and safe.
I’d only recently started a new role as Group Insurance Manager at AGL. Breaking the news of Tracey’s diagnosis to my new team was extremely difficult, but to my relief, their response was unequivocal. ‘Do whatever you need to do’.
And so, I began working flexibly during Tracey’s chemotherapy. We scheduled her treatments and oncology appointments in the afternoon, so that I could leave at lunchtime to go with her, and then log back on again in the evenings, or over weekends.
However, we were soon met with more bad news. During one of Tracey’s check-ups, we were told the tumours in her lungs had grown. This meant the chemotherapy would no longer work, and we would need to explore more targeted treatment options. Tracey’s oncologist prescribed the drug Crizotinib, which would not be subsidised under the Australian Government Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – meaning we would now be paying the full cost of all her treatments (around $7,000 per month).
We were reviewing our mortgage arrangements, trying to work out what to do next, when we were referred to Rare Cancers Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that allows people to make donations to rare cancer patients directly to pay for vital treatments not covered under the PBS.
Rare Cancers Australia were saviours for us. The organisation helped us raise funds through news stories in the media, competitions, and other forms of positive publicity. We ended up raising around $75,000, which allowed us to purchase the non-subsidised drugs Tracey needed. These drugs turned out to be very effective – helping Tracey to live a normal life for more than a year and helping the rest of us to create and share many more memories with her.
The cancer continued to spread even further, however. Soon, Tracey’s sight began to fade – which meant the cancer was now in her brain as well. Many months of surgery and radiotherapy followed. Sadly, by January 2018 we had exhausted all our treatment options, and Tracey went into palliative care.
My beloved wife passed away on 4 March 2018, aged 50 years.
Saying goodbye to Tracey was heartbreaking. The few weeks that followed were a blur, as we desperately focused on getting things organised.
I also arranged grief counselling sessions for us all through the AGL Employee Assistance Program, which was really beneficial. More than anything, it helped us all to feel as though we were in control of how we would deal with our loss – not only as individuals, but also as a family.
I will always remember Tracey as the compassionate individual, remarkable mother, and loving wife that she was. She will never be forgotten, and she will always be in our hearts. But I’ll also be forever grateful to AGL and the Company Secretariat team who were amazing throughout this entire period. I have always been afforded complete flexibility and support, unconditionally, which demonstrates that AGL is committed to living our values and providing a real balance between work, family and life, whatever that looks like.