Australian Documents His Mother’s Death from Mesothelioma

Cancer & Caregiving
Reading Time: 6 mins
Publication Date: 12/02/2013
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How to Cite’s Article


Kember, L. (2021, October 11). Australian Documents His Mother’s Death from Mesothelioma. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from


Kember, Lorraine. "Australian Documents His Mother’s Death from Mesothelioma.", 11 Oct 2021,


Kember, Lorraine. "Australian Documents His Mother’s Death from Mesothelioma." Last modified October 11, 2021.

Australian Marcus Lovett is not a man who sits around waiting for life to happen; he goes out and lives it.

Known for his daredevil attitude, this self-described adventure-seeker has a number of impressive athletic achievements under his belt, including Olympic skier and stuntman cliff diver.

The Aussie lives in Melbourne with his wife Susannah and young son Nelson. The couple is expecting their second child soon. Lovett loves life and hopes to live to at least 100.

His mother, Jan Lovett, also had hoped to live out a full century. Sadly, this was not to be.

Focused on Health

Jan Lovett had always believed that good nutrition and an active lifestyle were the keys to preventing disease and living a long, healthy life.

She was a shining example to her family. She didn’t drink or smoke. She loved to cook, and spent many hours in the kitchen preparing nutritious meals for her family. Extremely fit, she loved exercise and rode her bike rather than travel by car whenever possible.

Because of his mother’s good health and vitality, Lovett had no reason to believe she would not achieve her goal of living to 100.

The Dreaded News

His life was shattered seven years ago when his father called to tell him that his mother had cancer and was not expected to live very long.

Naturally, this news came as a terrible shock. His mother was the fittest person he knew, and he asked himself, “How can a perfectly fit and healthy person get cancer?”

When Lovett was told that his mother had mesothelioma, it was the first time he had ever heard that word. He would later learn that mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Lovett remembered he and his family had lived in a house made with many asbestos-containing products for many years, and that his dad had spent many of those years renovating the house.

Australians call these types of homes “asbestos houses” because they are constructed of asbestos sheeting or paneling. Expose to asbestos occurs when people renovate their homes and inhale the toxic asbestos fibers.

It wasn’t until years later, long after his mother’s death, that Lovett had a terrifying realization: If his mother’s illness was caused from inhaling asbestos dust over a long period while living in their house, what did this mean for him? Was he going to be diagnosed with mesothelioma as well?

This question was the catalyst that motivated Lovett to try to discover why his otherwise healthy mother developed cancer, and if he was to suffer the same fate. He documents his journey in a new documentary titled “What Ate My Mum and Will It Eat Me?

The documentary, which you can rent online or download, is entertaining, informative and thought-provoking. I highly recommend you view the film.

In Search of Answers

He began by looking at the similarities between himself and his mother, and concluded they were very much alike, not only in their healthy dietary habits, but also in their approach to life.

Lovett decided to delve into the issue further and contacted Professor Douglas Henderson from the Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide, Australia.

He told the professor about his family’s exposure to asbestos and his mother’s diagnosis. He then asked the professor why one member of the family was affected in this way and not the others.

Henderson called it ‘a matter of chance.’

Convinced that ‘chance’ could not be the only reason his mother had died of cancer, and curious about the role of ‘chance’ in determining if he would develop cancer, Lovett decided to seek further professional opinions.

He next paid a visit to Dr. Craig Hassed, a general practitioner and lecturer at Monash University in Victoria, and posed the question: “If I am predisposed to cancer on both sides of my family, does this mean I will automatically end up getting cancer?”

The answer was encouraging: A predisposition to cancer did not mean he would get cancer.

The doctor then explained that while genetic predisposition does play a part in someone getting cancer, there are other factors involved, and that a good, healthy diet and active lifestyle was the best defense anyone could have to prevent cancer.

Next on Lovett’s list: Tim Crowe, a professor and registered dietitian who specializes in the role nutrition plays in the prevention of diseases.

Crowe’s opinion echoed that of Hassed’s. He recommended unprocessed foods, a predominately plant-based diet and an active lifestyle to prevent disease.

Doing Everything Right, but Is It Enough?

Knowing that he was doing all the right things to care for his health, Lovett felt some comfort. But the fact remained: His mother had cared for her health, and it had not stopped her from developing cancer.

Lovett continued to wonder: If mum was healthy and she got cancer, is the same thing going to happen to me?

Still convinced that there must be another factor in his mother’s illness, he began to think back over the life they had shared. He came to realize that his mother had always held her emotions inside.

This was particularly evident when it came to grief, and sadly, Jan Lovett had been dealt more than her fair share of heartache.

The oldest of 11 children, Jan had seven brothers. Each of her siblings was diagnosed with hemophilia, a disease that prevents the blood from clotting. That illness and other hemophilia-related diseases eventually killed six of her brothers.

Despite their deaths of her brothers, most of the family had never seen Jan cry. She always put on a brave face, no matter how she was feeling.

To everyone, it appeared that she was coping well, but was she?

Unreleased Emotions

Sadly, more heartache was in store for Lovett’s mom.

Shortly after Lovett’s grandmother died, his sister Lisa was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and given a few months to live. Jan then became ill while caregiving for her daughter. Doctors later diagnosed Jan with pleural mesothelioma.

No one should have to carry the burden of so much grief, but this is exactly what Lovett’s mother did, and she continued to put on a brave face right until the end.

Thankfully, Levitt’s mom did not have to witness the death of her beloved daughter. In late 2006, just six months after her mesothelioma diagnosis, Jan passed away. She was 69.

Lovett is convinced that Jan’s reluctance to share her emotions about the deaths of her beloved family members took a toll on her body’s ability to defend itself from illness.

His experience with his mother’s illness and her own history of holding back emotions shaped his approach to grief. It’s the driving force behind his documentary.

The rugged Australian has learned to not hold his feelings inside, but instead talk about them freely and openly, to help himself and others.

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