Catherine Farthing was living the dream until she got one of the worst calls of her life: "you've got cancer".
Like many plunging into the pandemic-inspired tree-change, she and her husband moved from Sydney to the picturesque country town of Inverell in November, 2021, thinking they'd found it all.
While warned getting a doctor in the Sapphire City may be tricky, the implications didn't really hit home.
On the other end of the phone call that changed her life, that reality sunk in. Hard.
"The surgeon called me up to tell me over the phone, that I had breast cancer," she said.
"He was lovely, and said that I needed to book in with my GP to discuss my options.
"That was it. I just started crying as I said, 'I don't have one'."
On the surface, Inverell poses an idyllic setting for their retirement. Their beautiful new home is future-proofed, boasting ramps and stairs for when they got older.
Close to their three grandchildren - aged seven, 11 months and three weeks - they are cherishing the blossoming of those relationships.
But having a friend battle cancer twice, and losing both her mother and grandmother to cancer, Mrs Farthing knows the importance of staying on top of her health.
Ringing around all the doctor's surgeries in Inverell when she moved, she was told all doctors' books were full up, and no one was taking any more patients.
"I didn't realise how much you really need a doctor until I needed one," she said.
"From going to the same doctor for 25 years in Sydney, seeing him whenever you needed ... it was really, really hard."
Two-and-a-half hours away, the Tamworth-based surgeon who called told her not to worry, comforting her as she cried, and said he'd see her.
Her second shock came as she was lying in the Tamworth hospital, full of dye. No doctor was available to do her procedure.
"I cried again. I was in shock." She was told a surgeon was flying in from Sydney and would be there shortly.
"Lying on the bed at the Tamworth hospital waiting for the hookwire, it hit home that I'd never realised how bad the doctor situation was."
Now on the other side of a successful operation on February 24, she says she's "very, very lucky" all that's needed now is three weeks of radiation, thanks to the early detection.
Overcome with emotion again, Mrs Farthing said she now has a GP in Armidale to help her through the upcoming check-ups and ongoing treatment processes.
It is one-and-a-half hours away, and only because her daughter had offered up her own spot on the books as a patient-trade.
"I worry about the grandkids. It worries me now, what will happen in the future. We moved here so we could retire. We love the town. We love the shops. We love the relationship we have with our family.
"But it really makes us question it all, when we can't get something as basic as a doctor.
"I can drive - what do the elderly do who can't get to Tamworth or Armidale easily? It's heartbreaking.
"Young people need doctors too. They aren't going to stay somewhere, or move somewhere, where they can't get one.
"I don't want to lose this beautiful country life."
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