Henry and Kaye have chosen to support the McGrath Foundation through a gift in their Wills to ensure that no one goes through breast cancer without the care of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse.
Irene Halmans never had the help of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse and her family is adamant no-one else should miss out either. It’s why her husband, Henry Halmans, and her sister, Kaye Rehm, have decided to leave a gift in their Wills to the McGrath Foundation in memory of Irene.
Irene was strong, stubborn and had a heart of gold. From an early age she knew she would be a teacher and she found her niche helping primary school children with special needs. While Irene may have been tiny, her personality made up for her stature. Everyone who met her immediately understood the saying that good things came in small packages.
She developed breast cancer in 1996 and 2004, before the McGrath Foundation grew into the charity it is today. Henry, 70, from Carlton, Victoria, believes that if Irene had a dedicated McGrath Breast Care Nurse, it would have helped her navigate early breast cancer as well as her terminal metastatic diagnosis. “If these guys were around when Rene needed them, I’m not saying the outcome would have been any different, but at least there would have been someone there that she knew she could pick up the phone and call anytime,” Henry says. “She didn’t have that. These days, if anyone else out there is in that situation, they can easily ring a McGrath Breast Care Nurse and they’ll sort you out.”
Kaye Rehm, 65, from Fitzroy North in Victoria was Irene’s younger sister. “I called her Rene when we were little kids and in later years it stuck, we all started calling her Rene,” she says. “We were better than friends and would finish each other’s sentences, we knew what the other was thinking.”
What Kaye didn’t see coming was Rene’s passing, she thought her strong, stubborn sister would just keep on keeping on like she always did.
“We saw her go through the first round of chemo and she wouldn’t say no to anything, she would make out she was alright and never complained,” Kaye says.
“The secondary cancer seemed to creep into her back at first, we only realised it was there after a few checkups. It tried to travel into her lungs and found its way into her liver, that’s when she got really, really sick. I saw Rene nearly every day, but I didn’t see that she was dying whereas Henny (Henry) knew it was any day. I just didn’t think that it was going to happen.”
Leaving a Gift in your Will
After watching the cricket one day, Henry was introduced to the McGrath Foundation. He decided to make them the sole beneficiaries of his estate.
“When I retired, someone said to me, ‘When was the last time you looked at your will?’ I made it after I got married and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ It was around the time of the Pink Test, I thought that looks important and sent the McGrath Foundation an email to learn more about leaving a gift in my Will,” he says.
Kaye and Henry are still incredibly close, and she was inspired to change her will when Henry told her he’d set up a fund in Irene’s name. Kaye used Henry’s solicitor and asked him to replicate the same clause in her Will.
“When I dearly depart, anything I have goes to the McGrath Foundation,” she says. “I feel so content with my decision because it’s what I want to do. I think people feel a certain obligation to leave things in their Will to people but I don’t have that feeling. “There shouldn’t be that obligation to anybody, if people want to leave a little bit, or a whole lot of their estate to charity they should go ahead and do it.”
The power of having someone in your corner
Like Henry, Kaye thinks about the difference a McGrath Breast Care Nurse would have made to Irene’s life.
“We all knew who Glenn McGrath was and heard the story of his beautiful wife, Jane. I don’t believe the McGrath Foundation was even in operation the first time Rene was sick, the second time I think there was probably only two nurses in Sydney. The nurses Rene had at the hospital were wonderful and sometimes you were given a brochure,” she says.
“There was absolutely nothing like McGrath Breast Care Nurses at that time. It would’ve been a helluva different world for her if there had been. As close as we were, I couldn’t offer her words of support or give insight into what happens next. It was very much whatever you were told by your oncologist and what the next step was. Once you had your scans or doctor’s appointment, you just went home.
“The nurses Rene had at the hospital were wonderful, but she Rene didn’t have her own dedicated person to ring to ask questions, like she would’ve with a McGrath Breast Care Nurse.”
The power of having someone in your corner
Kaye’s decision wasn’t just about supporting future Irene’s but also future Kaye’s. One of the less well-known benefits of a McGrath Breast Care Nurses is that they also support a patient’s carers and families.
“I’d like to think there’s not another version of me out there whose sister has to go through all this alone. I want her to know that her sister has real support, not just from a brochure but from a real person,” she says.
“I would like to think that Rene’s pretty proud of me for doing this.”
A lasting legacy
Henry and Irene didn’t have any children and he had to decide what to do with his estate. “My sister has two daughters, they’ve got three kids and they all have good jobs. I thought, ‘Well, they don’t need it,’” he says. “I didn’t think it was that unusual to leave a gift to charity. I thought a lot of people did it. When I’m gone, it’s no big deal. You can’t take it with you. “Rene didn’t have anything to do with the McGrath Foundation, but I wanted to be able to say to her, ‘Rene, even though we’re gone at least we’re still doing something’.”
“I’m figuring, maybe there’s a lot of people out there like me who want to leave money in their will to charities but think they have to leave it to the family. I’m not saying give the whole shebang over, but even if you leave five per cent or whatever, it helps,” he says. “The only time you hear about donations is when millionaires give to big medical institutions or hospitals, but you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference. Anyone can make a donation, it doesn’t have to be everything, whatever you think is a fair thing.” Like Henry, Kaye wants to talk about her decision to include the McGrath Foundation as a beneficiary in her Will.
“As I don’t have children, it was an easy decision. I understand why people leave things to their children and try and help them, but I don’t know if I would’ve felt obliged to look after them if they were going OK and had their heads screwed on,” she says. “Anyone that I’ve told about this thinks it’s wonderful. It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made and it’s given me a real sense of contentment.”
A message from the McGrath Foundation
Breast cancer affects over 20,000 Australians every year, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer for Australian women. Your legacy gift will directly support families experiencing breast cancer to help ensure that no one in the future misses out on the care of a breast care nurse.
If you are interested in supporting the McGrath Foundation through a gift in your Will or wish to learn more about legacy giving, please contact us to discuss it.
We would like to thank Henry and Kaye for their generosity. And we are grateful for all gifts in Wills received, no matter how big or small.