What it was like to be a young mum with cancer and why the Pink Finss just had to happen!

Being diagnosed with cancer is a scary, scary time for anyone.  It feels like the world comes to a stand still, your future flashes before you, and you start to think about all the things you still want to do with your life.  But what I remember most about being told I had an aggressive form of breast cancer was thinking to myself… what is going to happen to my kids?  Will I be around to see them start school, to be a soccer mum, to attend their formals and weddings?  Whilst I had no guarantees about how my treatment was going to work one thing I knew for sure was that I was going to do absolutely everything to give myself the best chance to make sure I didn’t miss a thing in their lives.

The next thought process was how am I going to tell my kids that I have cancer. My husband Rob and I made the decision very early to be up front and honest with my boys.  Even though they were only 5 and 3 at the time, I wanted them to feel safe in knowing that I was always telling them the truth.  I also spoke to their day care and school teachers so they knew what the boys were going through and they would keep that extra eye on them if they started to lose their way.

I thought it was important to include the boys in all of the milestone moments in my treatment and didn’t hide from what was really going on.  My youngest son Jake recalls how daunting it was at times to see me coming in and out of hospital with drains and bags attached to me.  I remember the night I shaved my head for the first time how sad my eldest son Beau was that he wouldn’t be able to play with my hair anymore.  Losing your hair from the chemo was definitely a defining moment for me and it usually is for most women as it is that moment you physically look like you have cancer, and other people can identify you as having cancer as well.

The decision to start the Pink Finss was initiated by my need to be able to talk to others like me who had been diagnosed with cancer.  Living in the Hawkesbury there was no access to support groups, and I didn’t know anyone my age, with small kids, that I could talk to and share my feelings.  Your family and friends are always there to support you but there really isn’t anything like talking to someone else who has cancer as a way of understanding how it really feels.

Over the last 14 years of meeting other women diagnosed with cancer I have learnt that cancer does not discriminate and you don’t need a family history or be a certain age to get cancer.  At the moment at Pink Finss we have approximately 65 women who are newly diagnosed or going through cancer treatment. Over 60% of those have breast cancer and of those ladies 30% are under the age of 50.

My saving grace was having a GP who during my annual check up listened to her “gut” and sent me for a breast ultrasound despite having zero family history or any visible lumps in my breasts, and only being 33 years of age.  If it wasn’t for her then my cancer most certainly would not have been picked up until much later and my prognosis much worse.  Statistics show that survival rates of 5 years after a diagnosis can be up to 70% higher if diagnosed from stage 1 (early stage) as opposed to a stage 4 (late stage).

My boys are now 17 and 18 years of age and with every milestone moment that has passed I am reminded of how blessed I am to be here to share it with them. I am also reminded of how privileged I am to be able to help other women through their cancer journey.

When asked what advice he would give to a child with a mum who has been diagnosed with cancer, Beau says “Give them endless hugs and kisses, tell them how much you love and care about them and spend as much time with them as possible”.

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