As we get talking, Rowena offers up a scathing review of the ABC’s new comedy series Queen of Oz starring Catherine Tate.
“It’s bloody dreadful,” she says. “Things aren’t funny anymore. TV has changed a lot.”
Rowena admits she struggles with change, and confesses that she doesn’t particularly understand the current state of the world.
“You turn on the news, kids are shooting each other, it’s awful,” she says.
Rowena has found inspiration to soldier on though, drawing upon the work she did for World Vision in the ’80s, which involved visiting poverty-stricken countries.
“You have to remind yourself that someone else has it worse off than you,” she tells us.
Sadly, Rowena admits to New Idea that her health issues are worsening. Due to her debilitating scoliosis, a result from childhood polio and arthritis, moving around is a task that takes a lot out of her.
“I’m twisted – I can’t even lie straight in bed, that’s really becoming a problem,” she explains. “It’s painful, but you learn to put up with pain as you get older. You might as well as accept it and get on.”
Recently, Rowena suffered a lung cancer scare which remains an ongoing battle to this day.
“I went to get a scan on my shoulder and they identified a mass inside my chest,” she shares. “I know it’s stupid not to get another X-ray, but I think I’m terrified of what they’ll find.”
Making matters worse, getting medical help in her town has become difficult.
“They’re booked out six weeks ahead,” Rowena says. “It’s practically impossible to get an appointment.”
While it might be difficult news for Rowena’s fans to hear, the actress has made peace with dying.
“No, no, no … I’ve had a good life!” she declares when offered sympathy. “I’ve done some amazing things, been given some extraordinary gifts and opportunities. I promise you; I will have no regrets when I pass on.
“I’m not at all scared of passing, I don’t expect it every day, but I don’t fear it.”
With a chuckle she adds, “Just make sure that my pups are looked after.”
Over the years Rowena has been painfully honest about the perils of showbiz. She is “not entirely sure how” she went from being a TV sensation to living on a pension, and insists fame “is truly very weird”.
For now, Rowena assures us she is staying on top of her health. Indeed, there’s so much to look forward to. In November Rowena and many of her Sons and Daughters castmates will be getting together for a reunion event in Sydney.
“I can’t believe we still have fans who want to see us,” she says, almost unaware of the massive impact her portrayal of iconic Patricia ‘Pat the Rat’ Hamilton had on viewers.
“I loved playing Pat and I just hope that I was able to offer something entertaining for Australians. Fans will be meeting a funny old lady who can barely walk, not the glamour that was Pat.”
The prospect of reuniting with her on-screen daughter, Ally Fowler, also brings a smile to Rowena’s face.
“She is heaven on a stick,” she shares, recalling their time living together in Sydney during the early years of the hit soap.
These memories will no doubt be a highlight of the reunion, which is most likely going to be Rowena’s last public appearance.
See Rowena at the Sons and Daughters Reunion on November 4 in Sydney. Visit partnersincrime.com.au/tickets