'Our Joan of Arc': Burns survivor Carol Mayer’s family pays tribute
A BRAVE Cairns mum whose story of survival inspired thousands of people has died after succumbing to one cruel final battle.
Carol Mayer was never expected to wake up after receiving terrible burns to 85 per cent of her body in a house fire in 2000.
Her toddler son, Zach, was pulled unscathed to safety by a neighbour while his mother spent eight weeks in a coma at the Royal Brisbane Hospital burns unit.
Doctors talked about switching off life support but she fought on, waking up and going on to endure more than 100 excruciating skin grafts and reconstructive surgeries.
Today would have been her 54th birthday.
Ms Mayer died in Cairns Hospital on Saturday after an 18-month fight against an aggressive stomach cancer.
Family, friends and strangers touched by her story have come out in force to pay tribute to this remarkable woman.
Russell Mayer and Natalie O Mahony, speaking on behalf of the family, said their sister's inspirational spirit had spread far beyond Cairns.
The pair were holding her hands as she drew her final breath.
"As a family we watched in awe our beautiful sister stop at nothing to weave her craft and her calling - and that was simply a mission of hers to help others," they said in a statement.
"We are receiving messages and posts from all over the world, her influence providing hope for thousands of people, not only burns survivors."
Carol was born in 1966, the middle daughter of Harold and Margaret Mayer. She was strong, always up for a party and loved her family more than anything in the world.
She was diagnosed with stomach cancer in mid-2018 and wrestled with it all the way.
"Right through this fight, her character never wavered. She was never overcome," her siblings said.
"Her only fear was not seeing the future of her son Zach - things like him meeting a lady eventually and having grandkids.
"Also she told us, she so much wanted to do more for others, she had unfinished business, because she had only scratched the surface in her mind.
"She did not fear death.
"Our heart-to-hearts - and there were many - confirmed this, but she was so sad she could not complete her journey.
"She did not put herself first ever, and even when she was battling cancer at some of her darkest moments, she was still putting others first and helping those that were struggling."
It was an altruistic spirit that resonated with people all over the world.
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning was always astonished by the positivity Ms Mayer radiated in the face of every adversity life had thrown her way.
"I don't know what she was like before the injury, but she never seemed to be down," Cr Manning said.
"If anybody had a reason to give in, it was her.
"Carol was never defined by her burns.
"She redefined herself by the fact that she never gave in, and she always remained a part of the community.
"That's pretty gutsy."
Danae Jones was an ambitious young journalist when she first met Carol Mayer and began a life-changing friendship.
The media consultant said Ms Mayer's selfless spirit shone through when she asked her to help start up the FNQ Emergency Services Charity Ball to raise funds for the survivors of the Ravenshoe cafe explosion in 2015.
"She said, 'Sweetheart, I am there, tell me what I need to do'," Mrs Jones said.
"She spoke that night and there was not a dry eye in the room.
"We raised $65,000 in one night to help them.
"She didn't even need to try to be inspiring, she just was."
Ms Mayer's siblings said she never gave up, even when it became clear the cancer was going to take her life.
"She battled this cancer with all she had," they said.
"Sometimes we had wins, but mostly we lost.
"Yet through it all, she did not waver - the same Carol was seen abundant in her battle."
She baffled the doctors right up to the very end, just as she had done two decades earlier.
"This was Carol," her siblings said.
"She was nicknamed Mustang Sally, because you could never slow the mustang down.
"She was our Florence Nightingale, our Joan of Arc, truly the phoenix that arose from the ashes to beat all the odds, and helped many.
"A link now is broken in our chain, but like Carol, we will go on and celebrate her, carry on her legacy, because that's what she would want.
"She would not want to see sadness, but strength, together with smiles and lots of love.
"Rest in peace our dear sister.
"There's going to be a party, one heck of a celebration of the woman who became our hero."
Originally published as 'Our Joan of Arc': Burns survivor Carol Mayer's family pays tribute