WHEN Kangaroo Valley artist Jillian Naidu received a call earlier this year informing her that someone wanted to use her artwork in a calendar, she was at first pleased that someone wanted to extend what had been a humbling experience.
“But when they said it was all about men’s health, I said thank you Barb,” she said, glancing up at the sky.
The calendar is The Shoalhaven Men in Sport Calendar, which this year is donating all proceeds to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, with its main aim to promote men’s health.
Jillian’s late husband Barb was just 46-years-old when he died of cancer of the navel.
It has been just over six years since Jillian lost her beloved husband, just a year after he was diagnosed.
“Being a male, he was not one to go to the doctor very often. But we were healthy, we ate organic food,” Jillian said.
“Then he started to get this furrowed brow. It looked like he was concentrating heavily all the time and it was so out of character.”
Barb had also kept it from Jillian that he was passing blood, and when he went to the doctor, he found out that he might have a prostate problem.
After x-rays were taken, doctors found that Barb had cancer of the naval and he immediately had an operation.
Jillian and Barb then hoped that he was going to get better.
“But because of the delay of the operation it spread and ended up in his lungs and near his bowel,” Jillian said.
Barb passed away a year after he was diagnosed, in their Kangaroo Valley home.
“It was a really terrible death, really painful,” Jillian admitted.
“Though we laughed a lot along the way, we had jokes and made it the best we could,” she laughed.
“But he looked like he was 110 years old.”
As Barb’s carer, his illness had an overwhelming effect on Jillian physically and emotionally. In the lead-up to his death, she dropped to a dangerously low weight and was seriously fatigued.
“I was eating, But I think because he was wasting away, I was so much in rapport with him and his body and his mind that I was slowly wasting away as well,” she said.
“In fact I said to him one day, ‘Barb, this is the hardest thing to say, but if you don’t go soon, I think I’m going to beat you.’ Because of the drain – even though we laughed and we played and we made it as best as we could – I was still losing him.”
“Even to this day, to find the joy in my heart, I really have to search for the joy. Because he was my joy. He was my sunshine.”
The photo that will appear in the 2014 Shoalhaven Men in Sport Calendar features local football player John Muggleton in front of one of Jillian’s artworks from her recent exhibition, which was influenced by Barb.
“It’s so great that I can extend the honour of this very humble experience of holding an exhibition, and it was about him and extended about him,” Jillian said.
Jillian said she looked forward to finally seeing the photo and finished calendar at the launch night.
She has not met Muggleton, but thought it was fitting that he was smartly dressed in a suit, another tribute to her husband who spent a lot of his life in executive attire.
“It’s exciting. It’s exciting to be a part of men’s health. It’s exciting to have my art in there because that’s really special as it’s all about Barb. It’s great to know that his memory just keeps on going,” she said.
“Men’s health is so important. I think that even though we (Jillian and Barb) communicated very well, I think the fear of letting your partner know that something might not be right [kept him from getting checked].
“But please get everything checked out. It may seem like a silly thing you have to do, but we women have to go through some pretty crazy tests as well. And who cares.
“Life is life, you have one as far as we know and enjoy that one because it’s special and everyday is special. Who you are with is special so tell them.”
The calendar will be launched on Friday, October 18 at the Bomaderry Bowling Club for a 6.30pm start and everyone is invited to attend.
As well as the calendar men and special guest rugby league legend Michael Cronin, a “making of” DVD will be shown and includes a full interview with Jillian conducted by South Coast Register journalist Gillian Lett, as well as a lighthearted look at some of the funny moments that occurred during the photo shoots, plus the many photos taken that you would otherwise not get to see.
To book your tickets, please call any one of the committee: Cathy on 0400 342 309, Leoni on 0417 069 620, Kath on 0411 252 795, Scott on 0402 551 063, or Tammy on 0403 155 819.