Ellen Barns

Ellen Barns was the inspiration for this website. We spoke to her about our idea for a website which could create a community for patients, carers and the general public and she was excited by the idea and happy to help us. Unfortunately, within a year, she had succumbed to mesothelioma but she continued to be the person we had in the forefront of our minds as we worked to make the website a reality. Here her husband Ian Barns tells the story of their experience of asbestos-related disease.

We met her at the launch of the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases in November 2006 where she spoke of the need for an Australian resource which could provide information and support for people like herself suffering from asbestos-related cancer.  In her own research into her disease she had found herself relying on international sites which were removed from the Australian experience.

  • Ellen's exposure
    Ian and Ellen Barns met as students in 1964 and began going out together in 1966 before marrying in 1969. They had a long and happy life together until Ellen became ill with mesothelioma. Her exposure to asbestos came when she was just a child. When the question was asked it turned out she was exposed at various times in her life.
  • Ellen's diagnosis
    Ellen Barns’s sickness manifested itself initially in the mildest of ways, but she and her husband Ian gradually had to come to terms with the fact they were dealing with something very serious.
  • Ellen's treatment
    Ellen Barns went through various forms of treatment, including surgery which at that time was just being introduced. Ian Barns takes us through the treatment process as they experienced it.
  • Being Ellen's carer
    Ellen and Ian Barns progressed through many stages together as they faced the physical and mental challenges of coping with Ellen’s disease. As Ellen’s partner, Ian found different ways of offering her support.
  • Ellen's passing
    In the end Ellen Barns succumbed to mesothelioma and here Ian Barns reflects on what happened during her final days.
  • Words of warning
    Ian Barns like many people thought he had some knowledge about asbestos but he discovered following Ellen’s diagnosis that much of this information was incorrect. He sees lack of knowledge and lack of access to appropriate information is a problem for everyone and this means we may be exposing ourselves inadvertently to risk.
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