I was in my first year of university when my mum and dad told my younger sister and I that she had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. I vividly remember ‘that’ phone call when I was in the car driving home from university that something was horribly wrong. I reluctantly sat on the couch staring at my mum whom was holding back tears.
We all held hands and were ready for the battle awaiting us. Luckily, the tumour was isolated to the breast and mum had a lumpectomy followed by radiotherapy.
Following this, life for us began again. I was lucky enough to graduate from exercise and sport science and was accepted into the Doctor of Physiotherapy program at the University of Melbourne while mum enjoyed life, travelling overseas regularly and embracing life.
It was 2015 and I was on the oncology unit for my placement round. Once again, I got a phone call on the way home from university from my dad asking me what time I’ll be home… it was at that moment my stomach spasmed so hard I thought I was going to vomit. I remember screaming at my father asking him to ‘just tell me what was going on’. He was silent and then said to me, ‘mums breast cancer has spread’. I sat in my car on the side of the road and thought to myself, why is my mum being punished?
The battle started again… this time it was VERY different. 10 rounds of chemotherapy for her lung metastases and injections for her bone metastasis.
I had to be taken off the oncology ward as I began crying when I saw a mother and daughter in one of the hospital beds.
Mum became very involved in BCNA as they provided her with support, care and a sense of belonging that she thought she would never get again. She spoke at events, travelled for breast cancer conferences and created a Greek speaking program to empower Greek-Speaking women to educate and understand their breast cancer diagnosis and treatment options.
In 2017, we found out some more horrible news… her breast cancer spread to her liver. But we were quite confident, as there was amazing drugs for estrogen breast cancer liver metastases… and we had a wedding to plan! I was getting married!
Mum and I spent countless hours together planning and preparing my wedding and I honestly couldn’t have done it without her by my side.
Life was good and we were all very excited to go to Greece in May 2019 and celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday.
Two weeks before our flight, my mum was getting her routine port flush and fainted due to low blood pressure. She was rushed to Emergency and they performed a brain CT, which appeared clear, but the emergency doctor wanted to do an MRI just in case.
I was driving to work when I got a call from my dad… I knew then, her results were not good, but never did I expect to hear the words, ‘they found 5 tumours in Mum’s brain’.
On the advice from the radio-oncologist, we celebrated in Greece ready for another battle ahead of us.
Mum received one dose of stereotactic radiation, and rang the bell of victory thinking that she was never going to have any brain radiation again… we were wrong. Again, on Thursday 27 September 2019, to everyone’s disbelief, a lot more brain tumours were present on her scan, and in addition, her liver metastases were not responding to treatment.
The HARDEST battle began and continues today… 10 consecutive whole brain radiotherapy sessions accompanied by significant abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, hair loss and now, chemotherapy.
We are confident and have so much trust in all our medical team that mum will come through this and we will be able to travel to Greece for the European summer.
I cannot thank BCNA enough for the ongoing support they have given mum, both physically and emotionally and given her a platform to inspire and educate others about the complexity of this disease. In addition, BCNA has been incredible for our family and empowering us with knowledge and advice about how to be the best support network we can be for mum.
Running does not come naturally for me. It is both a physical and mental battle. That is why I decided to run the Carman’s Half Marathon. A little bit of pain in comparison to the suffering my mum and other women go though every day of their lives. Please help me and donate today to raise awareness for metastatic breast cancer and get one step closer to making this incurable chronic disease curable!
You can donate to my fundraising page here.