Her life has been a journey of incredible highs and devastating lows. This week, Lorraine Downes graciously lets us in so we can understand what it has been like to be in the driver's seat of her extraordinary life.
Her memoir, Life, Loss, Love, has just been released. In it, Lorraine shares her recollections of everything from the heady days of her Miss Universe win as a bright young 19-year-old, to the tragic death of her soulmate, Martin Crowe.
In the following book extract, Lorraine shares a memory of the time in which Marty was helped by Mercy Hospice...
Our hospice team would visit as often as we wanted and I know that I couldn't have cared for Marty at home without their support. I became very close to these three earth angels, who not only cared for my husband, but for me too. There were times when it was a huge relief to open the door and see their angelic faces.
Having 24-hour phone access to Mercy Hospice was also a lifeline – quite literally – because there were times when things happened that scared me. It was such a comfort knowing that help was at the other end of the phone, any time of the day or night.
One of the things I found scary was a drug called oxycodone, which Marty was put on for pain relief around June 2015. It was evil – it had a terrible effect on Marty's demeanour, making him very dark. Even his eyes went dark in colour. He just wasn't himself and it was a very challenging time for me as it made me feel disconnected from him.
Thank God I had Marty's friend Dave and my lovely Patricia close by. Marty only felt comfortable with a small number of people and those two were among them. They would come to the house when needed and support me, staying with Marty while I went for a walk to get some much-needed fresh air and exercise. By this time, I had stopped my weekly yoga class – I couldn't concentrate when my mind was elsewhere, worrying about Marty.
The high level of oxycodone Marty was on was a concern and he went to stay at Mercy Hospice so they could sort out his medication. While he was there, he got an upsetting phone call, which left him so agitated that the staff gave him sedation to try to calm him down.
Marty said he wanted to go home, but the team looking after him were reluctant to let him leave until they had sorted out the drugs. I was having a meeting with one of the doctors when another staff member came in to tell us they couldn't find Marty.
Eventually he was located outside in the garden, even though it was very cold.
One of the staff suggested he come back inside.
"I can't even go outside for some fresh air without feeling I am being checked on," he said as he walked past me into the building. "We are leaving as soon as I have my bag packed. Okay, you got that?"
That wasn't Marty talking, it was the oxycodone, but in that moment he meant it.
I needed help dealing with Marty when he was like that. In a panic, I rang Dave, hoping he could support me to keep Marty at the hospice until we could get his medication sorted out.
"Marty wants to go and I need you to come now – can you?" I asked. "Of course," he said.
"I'm on my way." Unfortunately, Dave misinterpreted my words. When I said Marty wanted to leave, he thought I meant that he was ready to pass from this world to the next!
He grabbed his guitar so he could play to Marty in his final hours and rushed to the hospice, coming upon Marty alone in his room.
"Thank God you're here, we're leaving now," said Marty.
Poor Dave was very confused. He'd expected to find Marty taking his last breaths, instead he found himself being roped into busting Marty out of the hospice.
The two of them were heading to the lifts when I arrived with the medical team. It was a tricky situation. In the end, the doctor said it was okay for Marty to leave, but first they needed to arrange the meds that he'd require at home.
"She can bring it," Marty said, pointing at me. "See you."
The lift doors opened and Marty walked in. Dave looked at me for guidance and I nodded for him to go with Marty. As the doors were closing, Dave mouthed "sorry" to me.
The doctor suggested we go to a private room. As soon as he shut the door behind us, I burst into tears.
"Please tell me this has happened before with other patients?" I asked.
I was reassured that yes, it had happened before. They see it all at the hospice.
Apparently, Marty was determined to beat the peak-hour traffic home – it was almost 5pm – and he had Dave driving his Honda Civic at high speed. I got stuck in that traffic, so I reached our house 90 minutes later. I opened the front door to the sound of Michael Bublé blaring and walked into the lounge to see Marty with a glass of wine in his hand, singing and swaying along to the music.
"Hi, darling," he said, like nothing had happened. I could have killed him.
Dave was looking very nervous, as if he thought there could be an actual death at this stage.
I was about to lose it, but then I thought, 'What will that achieve? Nothing.' I poured myself a glass of wine.
"Let's draw a line under today and start again." I said. "What are we going to have for dinner?"
The story of what happened that day came to be known as The Great Hospice Escape. It has been told many times and it still makes me smile now.
Lorraine’s emotional journey
What made you decide to write a book?
I have written a journal for most of my life and very much so throughout Marty's illness. I found writing down my thoughts helped me deal with what I was experiencing at the time. I intuitively knew I'd write about my life one day. After Marty passed, two clairvoyants told me that I must write my book, so I knew I had to.
What do you hope people will get out of reading it?
An understanding that we all go through suffering in our lives and to know that through the suffering there's always something positive to learn about ourselves and others and also, that we grow personally from that suffering. I share the tough times in my life and what helped me to get through those times, and to know that you can find joy again. It's all about the choices we make, especially with our thoughts.
Was it difficult revisiting sad memories to write the book?
Absolutely, but it was incredibly healing as well, as when I wrote about the sad times, I realised that I had survived them.
What was the easiest part to write?
Dancing with the Stars was the most enjoyable to write about, as that was such an incredibly positive and fun experience.
And the hardest?
My father's passing and Marty's illness, passing and funeral – and the events that happened afterwards.
Who is the book dedicated to, and why?
Life, Loss, Love is about the past 53 years of my life. All that I have done and achieved in that period has been possible because of the love, generosity of spirit and kindness of significant people in my life. For all those beautiful people, I am filled with gratitude.