Bob Hawke’s widow has spoken candidly about her earth-shattering cancer diagnosis while she was mourning the death of her husband.
In February, just nine months after the former prime minister died, 76-year-old Blanche d’Alpuget discovered a lump about the size of a 10c piece in her left breast.
Scans immediately revealed she had breast cancer. Defeated by the death of Mr Hawke, Ms d’Alpuget admitted she felt ‘ready to give up’ and considered ‘letting herself die from it’.
During an interview with A Current Affair aired on Tuesday night, Ms d’Alpuget spoke of her diagnosis – and offered an insight into her life with the larrikin former PM.
‘I could tell from the woman’s face while she was doing [tests] that the news wasn’t good,’ she said.
‘I had eight weeks of chemotherapy, which was sheer hell… I wanted to kill the oncologist during chemotherapy. It was really awful, I was terribly, terribly sick.’
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke died on May 16, 2019. The couple are pictured together in 2013
Blanche d’Alpuget, the wife of Bob Hawke, during the State Memorial service for the former Prime Minister
The lump was stage two cancer, with a few other stage one tumours surrounding it.
But Ms d’Alpuget felt that the diagnosis ‘served her right’ after avoiding a mammogram for years.
‘I’ve been very naughty. I had one mammogram in my life and it hurt, so I hadn’t had another one,’ she confessed.
‘It was quite a surprise. It serves me right, really, for not being more vigilant… I considered myself made of Indian rubber.’
The past 18 months have been a trying time for the author, who recently released a new book and completed the final biography of her beloved husband’s incredible life.
After his death, she was embroiled in a bitter court battle with one of his children, who disputed the will, and was later criticised for her decision to auction off most of Hawke’s belongings.
‘It was a conscious decision,’ she said of the auction.
Ms d’Alpuget felt that the diagnosis ‘served her right’ after avoiding a mammogram for years
Bob Hawke’s widow Blanche d’Alpuget revealed she was ready to give up and die when she was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year after the death of her ‘soulmate’
‘I saw it as that life has ended, and a new life is now beginning. I’m inclined to look forward,’ she added, mimicking a sentiment Hawke made often during his long life.
She confessed to Tracy Grimshaw that she only kept one photo of Hawke when moving into her new apartment, but that she’d since lost the photo.
‘So you’ve got no photos of him here,’ a shocked Grimshaw asked.
Bob Hawke’s widow Blanche d’Alpuget has been battling breast cancer
‘I kept Bob’s bed, I think its got his energy in it… I don’t sleep in it but I lay down with him every day,’ she said.
Speaking of the lack of photographs, Ms d’Alpuget said Hawke ‘lives on in [her] head’.
‘He lives with me anyway. After he died, I did finish what turned out to be his complete biography. Writing out his death was very cathartic,’ she said.
After Ms d’Alpuget’s eight-week stint of chemotherapy, she underwent intense surgery to remove the lumps and followed that with immunotherapy.
Ms d’Alpuget now considers herself lucky for finding the cancer so early on.
She was so sick from the chemo she was forced to stay in bed for days after each treatment, bedridden with nausea, exhaustion and even bleeding.
Shortly before surgery in April she revealed her battle for the first time to the media with the hopes of warning other women to make sure they check for cancer.
‘You never think you’re going to get cancer — not at my age, but it happens. I’d like to encourage all older women to have their breasts checked. I found the lump by accident,’ she said at the time.
In Ms d’Alpuget’s circumstance, she said she was simply putting on her nightie one evening when she discovered the lump.
Mr Hawke married Ms d’Alpuget in 1995 after splitting from his wife of 38 years. The Hawke family is pictured during the 1987 election campaign. Daughter Sue is cradling her daughter Sophie, Mr Hawke’s wife Hazel is next to him and daughter Rosslyn is next to her
Former prime minister Bob Hawke did not leave a cent to the three children he raised with first wife Hazel in his will – a copy of which has been obtained by Daily Mail Australia. Mr Hawke’s entire estate went to his second wife and former mistress Blanche d’Alpuget. (Both pictured)
‘I thought a mushroom had come up overnight,’ she said.
‘It really is an epidemic and I have to admit I had been quite foolish.’
In the horrific surgery the tumours were removed and the 76-year-old’s breast was reconstructed using body fat across her stomach.
Three surgeons worked on her for eight-and-a-half hours and she ended up in the Intensive Care Unit for four days with dangerously low blood pressure.
Ms d’Alpuget said if it weren’t for the ICU and being pumped ‘full of drugs’ to stabilise her blood pressure, she would have died.
Since the surgery she was told the operation was a success and is now undergoing immunotherapy which will ‘recognise cancer cells and jump on them’.
The cancer diagnosis came just two months before Mr Hawke’s daughter Rosslyn Dillon, 59, had a legal stoush with the 76-year-old over the former prime minister’s estate.
Ms d’Alpuget (left) and Mr Hawke (right) arrive for his 80th birthday party at the Sydney Opera House
Ms d’Alpuget faced her stepdaughter for a private mediation on May 7 – less than two weeks before the first anniversary of Mr Hawke’s death.
That case revealed friction between 59-year-old Ms Dillon and 76-year-old Ms d’Alpuget but was settled out of court in May with the terms to remain confidential.
The former prime minister, who held office from 1983 until 1991, died aged 89 on May 16, 2019.
Former prime minister Bob Hawke’s daughter Rosslyn Dillon wants $4.2million from her father’s estate
Ms d’Alpuget said she was happy with the outcome despite it being a ‘challenge’.
Mr Hawke didn’t leave a cent to his three children he raised with his first wife Hazel but the entire estate – including most of the $9.2million proceeds of selling a Sydney harbourfront home – went to Ms d’Alpuget.
Documents revealed the only gifts the Labor legend left to his children were five sentimental mementos including a photograph of Mr Hawke as a youth with his beloved father Clem.
Each of Mr Hawke’s children and Ms d’Alpuget’s son were reportedly given $750,000 from the sale of the Northbridge mansion but they were not provided with any money in his will.
Mr Hawke’s death exposed divisions in his family and led to fights over the distribution of his wealth – estimated to be at least $18million.
There were squabbles over his personal belongings being put up for public auction which led to items disappearing from the catalogue and being withdrawn from sale.
Mr Hawke was Australia’s longest serving Labor prime minister, winning federal elections in 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990 before going on to be a successful businessman.
Australia’s longest-serving Labor Prime Minister: The life and times of Bob Hawke
- Born December 9, 1929 in Bordertown South Australia.
- A decade later his family moved to Perth, following the death of older brother Neil.
- Attended Perth Modern School before studying law at the University of Western Australia.
- Almost died in a motorbike accident.
- Took up a Rhodes scholarship but was only able to after his fiancee Hazel Masterton had an abortion, as it was only open to single men.
- While his research focused on wage determination, he became better known at Oxford for making the Guinness Book of Records for downing two and a half pints of beer in 12 seconds.
- After returning to Australia and marrying Hazel, he joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
- By 1969 he was ACTU president and the nation’s best known politician outside parliament.
MP to Prime Minister
- First attempted to enter parliament in 1963, losing to Liberal Hubert Opperman.
- Elected federal president of the Labor Party in 1973, while also ACTU president.
- He was prominent in protests in Canberra after the governor-general dismissed the Labor Whitlam government in 1975.
- Entered federal parliament at the 1980 election as MP for the Victorian seat of Wills.
- Became leader of the Labor Party February 1983, less than a month before the Liberal Fraser government called the election.
- Led the ALP to victory and became prime minister with the campaign slogan Bringing Australia Together.
Achievements as Prime Minister
- Opened the economy by floating the dollar and deregulating the financial system.
- Cut tariffs and reformed the tax system.
- Established Medicare in 1984.
- Led international efforts to protect Antarctica from mining and to save Tasmania’s Franklin Dam.
- Increased the old-age pension, doubled public housing funds and the number of childcare places.
- Established the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation.
- Campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.
Downfall as Prime Minister
- In late 1988 Hawke and treasurer Paul Keating signed the Kirribilli House pact, where he promises to hand over to Mr Keating after the 1990 election.
- He reneged on the deal.
- After one failed attempt, Mr Keating toppled him in December 1991. It was the first time Labor voted out a serving prime minister.
- Married Hazel Masterson in Perth in 1956 and they divorced in 1995.
- The couple had four children: Susan, Stephen, Roslyn and Robert.
- He remarried in 1995 to Blanche d’Alpuget, the author of his 1982 biography.