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Survivor

“I could only be strong for so long”: Australian Survivor’s Flick reveals the truth behind the tragedy of losing her mum

And why she's only processing it now.

By Maddison Leach
Felicity "Flick" Palmateer sounds cheerful when she answers the phone the morning after the Australian Survivor finale aired.
Reflecting on the show's final challenge, which saw her balance in what looked like a torture device for four hours, Flick says she couldn't hold back the tears in the home stretch.
"Once I started crying, I just couldn't stop," she tells TV WEEK, adding that she could barely walk for two days after.
The 29-year-old eventually had to tap out of the challenge, admitting over the phone: "I could only be strong for so long."
It's a confession that sums up not just her performance in the finale, but Flick's entire journey on Australian Survivor: Brains V Brawn.

On day 34 in the Australian outback, she received the news that her beloved mother Pauline had died after a six-year battle with frontotemporal dementia.
It was a crushing blow for the pro surfer and one she's only really processing now, weeks after filming wrapped.
"I feel like I'm only just starting to realise how much my body and mind went through now," she reveals.
"I've had time to really sit in these feelings and it's been really hard, just trying to sit there and process what really happened out there."
Pauline was diagnosed when she was just 46 and was left immobile and non-verbal by the disease.
She was living in a care facility when Flick flew to Cloncurry for filming, but Flick had been grieving her mum for years before she passed.
Flick with her mum Pauline, who was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia aged 46. (Instagram)
That didn't make it any easier for the Survivor star when she got the news that her mum was gone, nor did it make her decision to stay on the show a simple one.
"Choosing to stay didn't just impact me, it impacted the whole tribe. It blurred the lines between the Survivor bubble and reality," she admits.
Fortunately, her fellow castaways stepped up to support her through the tragedy, as did the crew and production teams.
And when the episode where Flick found out aired, thousands of Aussies flocked to her social media pages to share their own stories and support.
The outpouring of love helped her feel that something positive had come out of experiencing such a traumatic loss on national TV.
"Now my story is not just my story, but everyone else also witnessed me go through this moment," Flick explains.
"When my mum first got diagnosed, myself and my brothers we felt like we were the only people going through this."
That thought held her back from speaking about her mum's diagnosis and the impact it had on her for years. Not anymore.
"Now this story has been shared with thousands of people I've had so many people message me saying 'I'm going through exactly the same thing'," Flick says.
"Without even knowing it, one of the best things to come out of this is me being able to talk about it and share my story… It's been healing."
But eventually the cameras stopped rolling and Flick came home to Perth, where her mother's loss felt even more real.
After compartmentalising a lot of the emotions around her mum's death at first, Flick is only just now starting to process the tragedy.
"It's been so hard," she says.
"When I first got back home, I was doing a really good job of just distracting myself from what my body and mind had been through.
"I'm trying to make sense of what my whole Survivor journey was now."
Though she missed out on the title of Sole Survivor, her time on the show means everything to Flick and she couldn't be more proud of herself.
She made it to the final three before being voted out by winner Hayley Leake.
"It was bittersweet that Hayley didn't want to take me [to the final two] because she thought she wouldn't win if she did," the pro surfer says.

The $500,000 prize money may have gone to Hayley, but Flick has found her own prize after making it to the top three.
"[Survivor] has given me this beautiful platform to really raise so much awareness."
Now she's raising money to fund more research into frontotemporal dementia in her mum's memory.
She's already raised more than $20,000 on Go Fund Me and plans to keep spreading awareness and pushing for more research into the devastating illness.
"I was so scared to share my story and for it to be out there… but so much good has come from that," she says, urging others to speak up too.
It's only the beginning of Flick's post-Survivor journey and she has plenty of plans for the future.
Flick is now focusing on surfing and her art. (Instagram)
Though her big wave surfing career is on hold due to the pandemic, she's still training and is eager to get back to the sport as soon as possible.
"I'd really like to have another crack at a world title," she laughs over the phone.
"I'm number two in the world and that doesn't sit right with me, it's not good enough."
She's also focusing on her art, which her parents always encouraged after her artist dad got her hooked on creativity.
And if the Survivor producers ever came knocking for an All Stars season, Flick already knows her answer.
"As hard as my time was out there, it was the best thing I've ever done in my life. I'd say yes in a heartbeat."

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