My Courageous Mumma
Breast Cancer took my Mums life in 2010, at the age of 55.
First diagnosed in 2005, while removing her necklace before a shower one morning, my Mum noticed a ‘pull in the skin’, as she described it, under her left breast.
At the time of diagnoses, I was 13 years-old, and I remember the moment she told me – vividly.
Stage 3 locally advanced; treatment started immediately - chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy.
Mum was an absolute trooper – wigs and a prosthetic breast became new accessories. Soon swapping the wig up for chunky jewellery and colourful glasses to spice up the short hair look.
Remission came, and life returned to some normality, but chemo and the loss of her breast had stolen an aspect of her spark. Her priority was always her family, and ensuring our lives were impacted as little as possible – I know for fact I did little to support or ease her recovery. 13-year-old me had other priorities – like popularity and boys – and the guilt associated with this will forever haunt me.
2009 came around in a blink of an eye – with it came headaches, nausea and the odd tumble. She would forget simple everyday tasks, like school pick up and turning the oven off. Upon reflection these were symptoms, but in the daily hustle of busy family life it was just Mum being forgetful.
Multiple hospital visits later we had the diagnosis of Metastatic Breast Cancer (also known as Secondaries) – this time spreading to her liver and spinal fluid. Treatment was instant and severe – brain surgery to remove the damaged area, brain fluid drainage to reduce pressure and a chemotherapy port implanted into her head so that the doctors could access her brain directly – to just name a few. Doctors described it as a fire storm - multiple spot fires, all as important as each other to put out.
Because of the fluid pressure around her brain, Mum suffered brain damage, resulting in her losing her sight – literally overnight. During this period Mum spent over 4 months in hospital, shrunk to half her size and lost all independence – such as basic eating, communication and mobility skills.
Upon Mum’s return home from hospital everything changed – our house wasn’t safe for a person with a visual impairment, which was amplified by the fact Mum was fragile and confused easily. You don’t see a hazard until it’s too late – an uneven rug corner near a sharp coffee table corner is never a good idea…
She fought, but it kept growing – smarter and smarter every time doctors looked.
Making the 5-year survival statistic - on May 30th, 2010 I held my Mums hand as she took her last breath.
Surrounded by her family, on a cold rainy Canberra Sunday – calm and dignified until the very end.
Breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Australian women, with early detection the best chance of survival – which is why we need to touch, check and look at our breasts often.
I am very passionate about raising breast awareness – to do everything I possibly can to help bet breast cancer, so no more Courageous Ladies (or men) die because of it.
We all have a breast cancer story, and this is mine.
Together, lets beat this shitty disease.
All my Courageous love,