I became a rebellious child
It was a day like any other. My sisters and I got off the bus from school and walked up the hill to our house. Walking inside, we were surprised to see Dad home early from work. Calling us into the kitchen, Mum and Dad said they had something to tell us.
I was 10 years old. I didn’t even know what cancer was, let alone that it could and probably would kill someone. For me, it was just like being told Mum had the flu.
As the months went on, Mum started coughing quite badly and constantly. I got frustrated, all I wanted to do was tell her to stop. I knew my feelings were wrong but I couldn't help it.
"I just got more and more frustrated, the sicker she got"
Having to stay quiet all the time, never being able to spend proper time with her, always spending time in the hospital. On my 11th birthday she wasn’t even able to come out of hospital for a couple of hours. We went to see her but couldn’t stay long.
Dad stopped working so he could take care of Mum. It was hard work but Dad said he'd do it all again. He was wonderful during it all.
October of 1999, it was decided that Mum would fly to Melbourne to see a specialist and get the treatment she couldn’t get in Tasmania. My sisters and I went over for a week each as Mum was there for a month. It was tough as Mum came back looking worse rather then better.
"Her birthday was November 14th and sadly it was the last time she ever played the piano"
Twelve days later she passed away. It was a Friday. We were on our way over to Nanna's to see Mum (she had been staying there) when Dad received a phone call.
He didn’t say anything for the rest of the trip and took his time coming inside. My sisters and I had been having a good time, oblivious to what was going on. We were still laughing when we entered the bedroom where Mum was.
"I was in a state of shock because I really didn't think she was going to die"
I really thought up till that point that she would get better. The adults hadn’t told us how serious her situation was, thinking we were too young to handle it.
I was terrified of not only what I had seen but what was going to happen now. How could I just enter 'womanhood' and not have a mother there to tell me how it’s done?
"Needing to get away from it all, I went back to school on Monday. None of my friends really knew what to say"
I was so sick of people saying 'I'm so sorry!' I felt like responding 'Why? Did you kill her? Is apologising going to bring her back?'
My aunt and Nanna took over the position of caring for us girls. When it was time for my aunt to go home, it was then up to Nanna to parent us, as Dad threw himself into his work to try and take his mind off everything.
"I'm not sure how well it worked but we rarely saw Dad for the next few years"
During that time I became a rebellious child and caused a lot of trouble. I drank, I smoked (thinking 'My mum died of lung cancer, why cant I?’), hung out with the wrong people and just hated the world in general.
At 13 I joined a support network for young people; it helped to find out that I wasn’t the only girl out there going through this. The more programs I went on, the easier it got to deal with it and to talk about it. I met so many people who helped me deal with what I was going through.
"After about five years I could finally think about Mum and talk about her without wanting to cry"
Since then I have also lost my Nanna (Mum's mother) and my aunt (Mum's sister), both to cancer. When we found out about Nanna, I had grown up a lot so I managed to deal with it much better.
I wasn’t naive this time and knew she would die. When she did I didn't cry about it. It took me months before the tears came. Mostly because I didn’t feel the need to but also because I didn’t want to admit to myself I had lost another mother.
"My aunt was more of a shock. She was still so young, like my Mum"
My husband and I had moved out of the state so we weren’t even able to spend time with her. I felt her death more than Nanna’s as I wasn’t able to be with her at the end.
As I've grown older, I've learned that no one can live forever – as much as we want them to! And I know now that they would rather be at peace, than fighting off sickness and pain with every breath.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today or be able to handle difficult situations if it wasn’t for the tragedy cancer has caused in my family.
"Though it has helped me find out who I am, I wouldn't wish it on anyone or any family"
But I can see that some good comes out of every situation, no matter how sad and terrifying it is.