For me, supporting Cancer Council ACT is my way of giving back to the community. On Mother’s Day, 2006, my mum passed away from breast cancer aged 55. Mother’s Day is a day of remembrance for me and my family, as I can no longer share this day with my mum in person.
In 1994, I was 19 when mum was diagnosed with breast cancer – she was only 43. So many thoughts and questions went through my head. What was going to happen to her? What about treatment? Was it anything that I had done? What will happen to me?
Back then, there were various treatments for breast cancer, and they included chemotherapy, radiation, and a new drug called Tamoxifen. Mum was one of the first people on the trial, and with the trial, you were not fully aware of all of the side effects. One of the side effects that mum had was the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet would be red raw, and the skin just peeled off – like a severe sunburn, but everyday. It got to the stage where on many occasions, she simply couldn’t walk as it was too painful. Mum had a stent (a plastic tube) inserted into her so the treatment could be administered as her veins had collapsed and there is a picture of mum, smiling as always, with a plastic tubes and hoses connected to her back to draw out the 2 litres of fluid from her lungs – removing the fluid from her lungs happened regularly.
On Monday 8th May 2006, Dad phoned letting me know mum was being admitted to hospital, but this time he followed with “She won’t be coming out this time”… I was in complete shock. Mum always came out of hospital.
I travelled up to Newcastle the Friday prior to Mother’s Day and saw mum. That was when I knew in my heart that she was never coming home. That was not my mum there lying in the hospital bed, the deterioration to her body due to her organs beginning to fail, not being able to move or breathe properly; the oncologist advising us there was nothing more he could do. My dad, brothers and I sat there numb and decided that after 12 years of radiation, chemo treatment and varying drug trials, enough was enough and it was time to let mum go.
My family and mum’s lifelong best friend stayed by her side every day since she was admitted; taking turns staying with her, saying goodbye when we left each time, not knowing if it was the last time we would see her. I remember my brother saying “I can’t do this anymore”.
At 5.30am on Mothers Day 2006, we got the call from the hospital telling us that mum had passed. I went to dad and just hugged him; telling mum’s best friend was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. I didn’t even have to say anything – she just said “I know”.
My mum was not only a mum, but also a wife, an aunty, a nanna, a friend, a neighbour and a work colleague.
Since mum passed, I have assisted with fundraising for Cancer Council ACT’s Daffodil Day and Pink Ribbon Day, volunteering each year, and attending the Pink Ribbon Day breakfast with my husband and now also with my son. This year, for the first time, I participated in Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea.
For the past 10 years, I have started my own tradition of writing a poem for her and updating her of life’s events over the last year.
My family and friends participate in the Mother’s Day Classic walk each year in remembrance of mum and other brave men and women each year. On Mum’s 10th anniversary, I got up on stage in front of over 5000 people, and read out my poem to her for this year:
10 years ago today, we lost you Mum
Mother’s Day has never been the same since
So many things have happened
So many things have changed
And the tears still fall, as Mothers day draws near
So many things I want to say to you
So many things I want to show you
But I can't
So many things I remember,
The way you walked into a room and everyone noticed
The cards you sent
The letters you wrote
I kept them all
I only have them and photographs now
I have one photograph in your grandson's room
He points and say's "Nanny"
I close my eyes and wish you were here with us
Just to see him
Talk to him
For me to see you even for 5 more minutes
I would sit down, talk and just hold your hand
But I can't
10 years ago on Mothers Day
10 years ago today
We said goodbye
You closed your eyes
And you gently slipped away