Mother’s Day 2012 I spent with my darling Mum – my last Mother’s Day with her.
She died two days later, and while facing Mother’s Day without her is tough, last year I did something on that day that would have made her proud. I’ll be doing it again this Mother’s Day, Sunday May 11.
You never know what life can bring you, and my family and I certainly never expected we would be affected so closely by breast cancer.
You always hear stories of other people going through hard times but when it happens to you it takes you by surprise. You can never truly be prepared for it, but it’s amazing that when it does happen, how close it can bring a family, how you learn to deal with the turn of events and how your friends pull together to help you through the hardest times of your life.
I remember the day we found out like it was yesterday. It was 2006, I was 21 and my mother, Linda and father, Craig, sat my brother, Joshua and I down to tell us that my mother, aged 43, had found a lump in her breast which had grown a cyst on it after a knock to the breast.
She had found out that day that the cyst and lump had abnormal cells and after a series of tests in days to come, we were told the heartbreaking news that my mother had breast cancer.
Our whole world from that day on was turned upside down. Life as we knew it had changed forever for our family; we did not know what to expect and began the start of our 6 year emotional roller coaster. We had some highs, but many lows; we lived with constant fear as Mum suffered through her treatment, trying to support her any way that we could.
Mum was so determined, she was going to do whatever was needed to beat this, she was sure she wouldn’t let it win, so when the doctors advised that she would need a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, my mother was ready to start the battle straight away. This led to many months of Mum having to deal with the side effects such as losing her hair, losing her appetite and having no energy, but Mum didn’t let this stop her. She continued the treatment and became the support unit for the family – she put everyone else first, always ahead of her own needs.
Finally she was given the news that she was cancer free – I remember how happy we all were! We knew that there was still many more years before she was truly out of the woods but I guess in our eyes she had won her battle, and we felt a great sense of relief.
It was then time for her 12 month test, I was sure that everything was going to be fine and my family were confident that there was nothing wrong with my Mum as she was on the mend and doing great.
However we were told the shocking and devastating news that the cancer was back and we were all back on that emotional roller coaster. At the time, the doctors thought that they must not have got a clear line or removed enough muscle surrounding the tumour. We were later to find out that this was the start of Mum getting secondary breast cancer – and so the battle started again. Mum was later told that she was cancer free again but this only lasted a short period.
The next few years my mother decided that she would battle this disease with just my father’s support. Mum chose to try and hide the fact that the breast cancer was back (and had spread to her lungs).
This was her way of trying to protect my brother and I, along with our family and close friends, from what she was going through. Even though we began to suspect that something was wrong, she always convinced us otherwise – another example of her selfless nature; always worrying about others.
In August 2011, after 18 months of protecting us, and I guess her way of showing some control over the disease, my mother had to give in. Dad sat us down, and I remember the quiver in his voice as he told us that Mum’s cancer had returned and was spreading. They filled us in on the months of treatments that she had tried but none of them had worked so she was going to have to start an intense trial treatment.
I remember the anger I felt – how could our parents lie to us for so long about something so important? Later I came to realise that it was Mum’s way to try to live a normal and life with us for as long as she could, she wanted to spare us from the pain for as long as she could.
The next 9 months were the hardest of all the years as our greatest fear was starting to become a reality. The trials weren’t working and while the cancer kept spreading, my Mum kept fighting. With all the hospital stays and the severe side effects from the treatment, she was still as determined as ever to keep living as close as a normal life as possible.
In the start of 2012 it was decided by a few members of the family that we would take part in the Mother’s Day Classic.
Why some people may ask when it seemed too late for my mother?
The reason was simple; we wanted to help make a difference, we wanted to try to help others going through this, and we wanted to start fighting her battle and show our support for her in some small way because we all felt so helpless. My Mum was losing her battle, she was dying and we needed something positive to focus on.
And so the Pink Misfits were formed! It went from a few family members to friends and work colleagues and eventually, before we knew it, we had 38 team members and the donations started to roll in. When we shared Mum’s story with other people they were more than happy to start donating or take part in the event – it seemed that people wanted to help out in any way they could.
We were so focused on raising as much money as we could; we didn’t realise that in Mum’s final weeks that this selfless, amazing lady I always knew, would get such excitement with every donation that was made. Mum had some of the biggest smiles on her face during this time and was so grateful that during such a difficult time everyone was being so generous in trying to help her and others. She knew herself that the most important thing was to raise as much money as we could to help towards the research for breast cancer so that hopefully one day others won’t have to go through what she had and what we had as a family.
Mother’s Day finally arrived and we were all so proud to be taking part in the event. With team members walking and running in what was close to torrential rain on the day – we were all proud to wear the Pink Misfits logo in a show of support for my Mum, Linda, and all the women out their fighting a battle with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Sadly, two days after MDC 2012, my mother finally lost her battle and passed away peacefully. The suffering had finally ended for this brave and inspiring lady, and we took great relief in this fact. She will be missed forever, and I know I speak for everyone who knew Linda when I say there will always be a hole in our hearts in which she could only fill.
The days after her passing the donations keep coming in. Never in our wildest dreams would we have expected to raise $23,000 but it is a genuine testament to what sharing your story can do and how much simply asking for help can make a difference.
In 2013, the Pink Misfits decided to honour Mum’s memory by not only taking part in the MDC 2013 but holding an event in her honour – more than 300 tickets were sold, donations received and the day was a huge success.
Family, friends, work colleagues and the Port Melbourne community came together for a fun filled day. Our aim was to raise money to go toward the Pink Misfits MDC donations and raise awareness in the community that Mum grew up in. It is our plan to keep Linda’s day as an annual event within the community.
Mother’s Day finally arrived, a day that I had not been looking forward to – how can you have a Mother’s Day without your mum?
What an amazing day we had. Yes, the day was filled with sadness, but the honour I had in being able to stand on the stage as a Community Ambassador and read the One Minute Silence to open the running event as Mum’s family looked on, was a moment I will never forget.
As the event started, 54 family members, friends and work colleagues ran or walked in memory of Mum. We did her proud, raising another $23,082 for the MDC.
This year, the Pink Misfits will again be running and walking in memory of my Mum. We want to continue to raise money for breast cancer research and honour the memory of a truly selfless woman.
So remember every dollar counts. Even if you don’t think you can raise a large amount, don’t worry – give it a try. Share your story and ask people to show their support by joining the event or making a donation.
I am so proud to be Mother’s Day Classic Community Champion in 2014. I hope that I can help others going through their cancer journey and encourage as many people to get involved in walking, running, raising or donating money for such a great cause. We need to all remember that together we can make a difference and while for some it might be too late, it is never too late for others.
To register, volunteer or donate to Mother’s Day Classic, go to www.mothersdayclassic.com.au