THEY have always been the "three amigos" - there for each other through thick and thin. But at a time when they need each other more than ever, the passenger caps on international flights to Australia have kept this Hunter family apart.
Diane Pietsch is having surgery for endometrial cancer this week.
But her UK-based daughter, Lauren, cannot get home to be by her side.
"There are thousands of Australians who just can't get home, and my daughter is one of them," Ms Pietsch, of Medowie, said. "She has a flight booked for the 29th of October... we are just really praying and hoping she doesn't get bumped off that flight like others have."
Ms Pietsch said her daughter had moved to Edinburgh in October to "follow her dream" to work and travel in the UK. But she had been in lock down there since March.
"She was getting paid, she was safe, she had an apartment - and none of us knew what COVID was going to do, so she sat and waited it out.
"But I have ended up with this cancer diagnosis.
"I still don't know what the journey looks like. I don't really know what's ahead.
"It has always been the three of us, me and the kids, since they were toddlers. I still have my 20-year-old son here with me, but she is the piece that is missing.
"It will be an answered prayer of mine when we three amigos are reunited."
Ms Pietsch said she had recently had a friend pass away within three weeks of his cancer diagnosis.
"The thoughts that went through my head when I got mine... What if I can't say goodbye?... It is really the quality time and love we get to sew into our relationships that matter."
Ms Pietsch said the only people who seemed able to come home at the moment were people who could afford a first or business class ticket.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says there are now more than 25,000 Australians overseas who have registered their intention to return home.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged other states to increase their hotel quarantine capacity to help cope with the backlog.
As NSW accepts 2500 passengers each week at Sydney Airport, Ms Berejiklian called on other states to take their "fair share". Perth currently receives 525 people a week, while Brisbane and Adelaide take 500 passengers each.
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