He had been overcome very suddenly by cerebral oedema as he was descending from the summit. His companions tried desperately to revive him but after several hours and finally no signs of life he was declared dead. His body was left over 8 kilometres above the earth, and we at home in Australia were given the heart-breaking news. The following morning, another group of mountaineers, the last of the season, were approaching the summit and had been warned they would need to step around his body. They were stunned to find him very much alive. “I imagine you’re surprised to see me here” he said, with characteristic understatement. He was sitting cross-legged on the narrow ridge, with a 3000 metre drop on one side and a 2000 metre drop on the other. He had somehow regained consciousness and found the resources within himself to survive the night.
Lincoln was physically built for mountaineering, he was capable of great endurance and blessed with a large lung capacity. But that expedition took its toll, he lost almost half of all his fingers apart from his thumbs, and also a big toe. However, he recovered and resumed his work as a writer and presenter.
In late March 2011, Lincoln had felt unwell for several weeks. He had a busy speaking schedule and was due to lead a group of clients on a difficult trek in remote Nepal. He was diagnosed with mild pneumonia, given antibiotics and an ok to go to Nepal. He arrived in Kathmandu in April but could go no further than the international medical clinic he had visited in 2006 after his Everest ordeal.
Ten days later he flew home with a medical escort and I met him at a hospital in Sydney, where it was discovered he had been treated with tuberculosis medication, as he had returned with an interim supply. The specialist team agreed with the diagnosis and he was subsequently treated for several months through an outpatients clinic. As his health was not improving, a biopsy on his chest was performed in early August 2011. By the end of August the diagnosis was confirmed: malignant mesothelioma. Seven months later in March 2012, despite months of chemotherapy, he passed away. He was 56 years old.
Lincoln had never worked with asbestos and at first could not recall any contact at all. However, he remembered ‘helping’ his father to build two cubby houses of asbestos and playing with the offcuts as a 10 year old. He also clearly remembered the special asbestos cutting tool which he used to cut wiggly worms in the offcuts, and the resulting caterpillar of dust which he played with on the workbench in the garage of the family home. The contact could almost be considered ‘incidental’ but it proved deadly.
I understand from my husband’s death, the incredible importance of developing a method of early diagnosis and, of course, a cure. There is also an overwhelmingly urgent need to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos. As we know, asbestos has been used extensively throughout Australia but many people are still unaware that removal of asbestos needs a specialised contractor. I hope that, as a patron, I will be able to help the tireless, hardworking committee of volunteers who run adfa, to achieve their aims in these areas. They have raised awareness on many occasions in a feisty and fearless manner, but there is still a long way to go. Please help spread the word.