Sally’s giving it all she has got
Community support for transport family
WHEN doctors told Sally Kilner, cancer could take away her voice, she recorded herself telling her children she loved them.
“I couldn’t bear the thought that they would never hear me say that again,” she said.
Sal, an integral part of Kilner Livestock Transport, is undoubtedly an extrovert.
She is someone who loves having a chat, is normally on the phone for much of a day running the family livestock transport company, and has a thick Scottish accent and infectious laugh that makes her easily identifiable in her small Moree community.
But a persistent cancer, which has returned for the third time and resulted in her having her tongue surgically removed, threatened to change everything.
This month, the mother of two was left overwhelmed when Moree residents organised a charity fun day to support her family. Hundreds turned up and a substantial kitty was raised.
Her husband, Baz, will have to step away from work to help raise their two children, Lucy and Matilda, as chemo, radiation and long trips to Brisbane become, again, part of Sal’s daily life.
We spoke to Sal about her cancer battle and what the journey ahead looks like.
She also shed some light on how an adventurous young Scottish woman, who used to brag that one day she would be sitting behind a “big oak desk” on a million-dollar salary, ended up working in livestock transport and loving every minute of it.
What made you decide Australia was to be your home?
My dream after graduating from uni was to take a gap year backpacking the world before settling into a real job.
Australia was my main destination and I loved the fact that there was so much of it to explore.
Are your friends and family amazed you have made a living trucking Aussie cattle?
Absolutely! Considering I had always imagined, and vocalised, that I would be working behind a big oak desk with a team of people earning a million a year. And now, instead of the city and shiny wooden desks, I have the red dust, old half broken down cattle yards and the working dogs greeting me with a lick or a jump.
When did you receive your cancer diagnosis?
I received my first diagnosis while on holidays in Byron Bay in September 2014, then, had an operation to remove part of my tongue, 26 lymph nodes in my neck and had six weeks of radiation.
Then, just shy of two years in recovery the cancer returned and I had more of
❝ Better grab the bull by the horns and give it all I have got... — Sally Kilner
my tongue cut out and a reconstruction done using a piece of my forearm, I managed to be cancer free for about nine months when it appeared again, this time the rest of my remaining tongue was removed and my thigh was used as part of reconstruction.
So I now have arm and leg as my tongue.
What is it like to be told you may lose your voice?
When I was told this I obviously got very upset. I recorded myself telling my children and husband that I loved them because I couldn’t bear the thought that they would never hear me say that again.
Every night before the op I would look the kids in the face and told them to watch me tell them I loved them because they may never hear those words come out my mouth again, and we giggled because I would make a few moans, and said “well, that might be the new I love you”.
From being quite an extrovert and social person who enjoys other people’s company, to thinking I would be sitting silently in the corner depressed me big time.
How is it knowing your community is behind you?
Very overwhelming, humbling, confronting... but once you get over that you realise it reflects the love the community has for one of its members, and that is great.
■ To find out more, search for Live Life Like Sal.
LONG BATTLE: Sally Kilner with her husband Baz from Moree. Sal is undergoing treatment for cancer, which has returned for the third time.