5th September 1998
Prepare for tear-jerking anniversary scenes as Tasma Walton takes centre stage …
WHEN Dash McKinley discovered she was suffering from cancer, she was shocked to the core. She only half-heard what her doctors were telling her; all the time, the word cancer, cancer, cancer was ricocheting through her mind.
It took some time, but eventually Dash began to come to terms with her illness and she made the decision to begin fighting.
This week, as part of her courageous fight, Dash shaves her head. As she explains to her boss, Sen-Sgt Tom Croydon (John Wood): “I just want to feel as if I have some control, and this helps.”
Tom is not convinced. He feels that shaving her head will only remind Dash of her illness. And it will attract attention. But Dash is adamant — the hair is going, and that’s that.
The rest of the Heelers are sympathetic and do their best to treat Dash as always. The first step is to make her work. Unfortunately, the case they ask Dash to lend a hand with threatens to plunge her to the depths of despair.
“Dash is asked to look after a pregnant woman whose best friend has just died,” says Tasma Walton, who plays Dash.
“Dash is quite pleased, because she has just returned from visiting her sister and her new baby, and she’s feeling quite clucky.”
But the pregnant woman reveals her friend may have killed herself because she was infertile, and Dash’s good mood is crushed. Then the woman adds that her friend became infertile because she underwent chemotherapy several years ago.
Dash is shattered. She returns to the station, where Maggie (Lisa McCune) teases her about being baby mad and Dash responds by rushing out of the room. Concerned, Maggie follows her outside and Dash tells her about the new crisis she now faces.
“All Dash was worrying about when she was told she had cancer was surviving,” Tasma says.
“She wasn’t thinking about having babies or anything like that … she’s only 20 years old, and the thought hasn’t really even crossed her mind yet.
“But to be told she can’t have children, even if she wants to … that’s a whole different story.
“She has seen her sister with her baby and she has begun thinking, ‘That’s something I’d like to do’, and now she has to face the fact she might not be able to.
“She’s already been having chemotherapy and there’s no turning back the clock. She’s absolutely devastated.”
Maggie tries to comfort her friend, but there’s no consoling her. The thought of not being able to have children is breaking Dash’s heart — but the fact she could have prevented this situation is hurting her even more.
“Dash tells Maggie that she wasn’t paying attention when the doctors told her about her condition,” Tasma says.
“She was just thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I have cancer.’ Unfortunately, she thinks they may have said something to her about freezing her eggs just in case. She just didn’t really take it in.
“This causes Dash to feel that, if she is infertile, it could be her fault.” It’s a tragic situation and one that is so realistically played it will bring tears to your eyes. ,
Although she doesn’t necessarily want to make her audience cry, Tasma has worked long and hard at playing the role of Dash and making her situation believable.
She knows many people face these kinds of crises every day, and she feels the role must portray their struggle responsibly.
“It is a difficult thing to play, but at the end of the day I am playing a woman with cancer, a character. While it can be very tough, I’m not going through it personally,” Tasma says.
“It was a big challenge for me, and I really feel the responsibility and the seriousness of it all.”
It is a sombre storyline, but one that may have a happy ending. Dash is slowly building up the courage to speak to her doctor about her chances of having children.
Who knows? She may have good news, we’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, Sen-Sgt Tom Croydon has news of his own.
When he enters the pub to join in the celebrations for his 50th birthday, he has a wonderfully touching surprise for Dash — one that will make her realise that, no matter how tough life may seem, you’ll get by with a little help from your friends.
By Kelly Baker
What being a dad means to me…
DASH’s shaven head is a brave move, and her mates at the station recognise it.
One of the first to step forward and offer support is Senior-Constable Nick Schultz, who is broken hearted to hear about her cancer.
William McInnes (who plays Nick) understands that intensity of feeling. It rushes through his veins every time he looks at son Clem, 4, and six-month-old daughter Stella.
“It is something you can’t really put into words,” he has been quoted as saying. “But it is a wonderful feeling seeing your child running around or sleeping, or just knowing he is out there somewhere.”
Original content copyright TV Week.