My youngest was born six years ago this July. He first met his Nana five days afterwards. Fay and Paul had been holidaying in the UK when he was born, otherwise I’m pretty sure they would have greeted us as I walked out the delivery suite. Hell, she probably would have made her way into the delivery suite, given half a chance. She was THAT keen to be a grandmother.
While she was in the UK, she’d contracted what she thought was a cold virus, symptoms that got worse when she got home, with her GP making a pneumonia diagnosis. She couldn’t lie down, the pain in her chest was that great. But it was only when the prescribed antibiotics did zip to counteract the pain – and get her better – that they discovered something else was very up.
The pain in her chest was actually fluid on her lungs, there as a result of cancer on her ovaries. Within days of the discovery, she’d had her first round of chemo. The plan had been to do a couple of rounds of chemo to reduce the size of the cancer and then go in and operate. Take all the surplus bits out as well as the tumour.
Flynn was eight weeks old.
His babyhood – and Fay’s enjoyment of his babyhood – was lost to Ovarian cancer.
I hate the term “easy baby” because frankly it’s an oxymoron. Babies are not easy. But compared with my daughter who had undiagnosed reflux and screamed 24/7, Flynn was a breeze. It was as if he knew he just had to fit in. Fit in with our weekly trips to Brisbane. Fit in with sleeping in a different location every weekend.
By the time Christmas rolled around, things seemed be looking up. The operation had been a success. The chemo was working and that dreaded cancer count was down. Fay and Paul even went on a cruise, with Fay switching between red and blonde wigs depending on her mood.
In March, we decided to have Flynn’s Christening – a farce of a day when the priest missed the memo and left the four families waiting in the sun at the church while someone tracked him down so we could all go home and have a drink. It would be the last time Fay would visit us in our home.
Flynn was eight months old.
Within weeks, the dreaded cancer count was up again. It was back. This time on Fay’s bowel. More chemo; more surgery.
Flynn was one-year-old.
Fay was too ill to travel the hour journey in the car to his party.
The next month it was Fay’s birthday. Her 54th. We all gathered at their house for cake and fish and chips. My father-in-law had had to go out and buy her new clothes as she had literally become a shadow of her former self. Her cheeks were sunken; her skin pallor grey and it was a huge effort to even come down the stairs to join us.
Within a month, doctors advised there were no further treatment options. She came home and a hospital bed was made up in the family room. Stairs were no longer a possibility.
Flynn was 15 months old.
A month later, we were driving down the Bruce Highway, making our regular weekend visit, when I get the phone call. A family friend – my brother-in-law’s mum – who’d been with her that afternoon tells me to ask Kester to come quickly but to take the kids elsewhere. I knew what was going on.
My older children were nine and 10. Flynn was 16 months old.
We dropped off my husband and headed for the nearest giant toy warehouse. Me clutching my mobile phone. Waiting. Just wanting to hold my husband. Wondering how I’m going to break it to my kids, especially my daughter, who had formed such a close bond with Fay in the short time they’d known each other.
After the longest hour of my life, my husband calls me to tell me what I already know.
The bloody cancer had won.
This is my family’s ovarian cancer story. Sadly, there are so many similar stories unfolding in families all around Australia as you read this blog.
My story is why you will ALWAYS see blogs posts on Styling You that support ovarian cancer awareness and fundraising for a cure and an early detection test. See, that’s why this particular cancer has the killer reputation. There is no test for it. Don’t stop getting them, but ovarian cancer will not show up on a pap smear, nor a mammogram. Typically by the time a woman has been diagnosed, the cancer has reached an advanced stage, making it very difficult to treat and the prognosis poor.
This Thursday, May 19, is the inaugural Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) White Shirt Day.
Fashion retailer Witchery has long had an association with the OCRF, fundraising through its White Shirt campaigns and signature Silver Gift collections. This year, Witchery has a specially crafted capsule collection available of three shirts for men and seven shirts and a classic tote bag for women, with 100% of the gross proceeds from the sale of the capsule collection going directly to the OCRF. The Silver Gift collection, which complements the White Shirt collection, raises funds as well by donating $5 from the sale of each piece directly to the OCRF.
At selected Witchery stores this Thursday, staff will play host to White Shirt Campaign ambassadors and offer photo opportunities for those coming in store wearing white and silver.
Where you can participate:
Victoria: Chapel Street, Doncaster, Chadstone
NSW: Bondi, Mid City, Chatswood Chase
WA: Hay Street
QLD: Fortitude Valley, Indooroopilly
SA: Rundall Mall
NZ: Nutfield Street, Auckland
If you don’t live near one of these stores, join in anyway. Put on your white shirt and help spread the word. I know my late mother-in-law would have wanted you to.
PS. My blogging friend Sawhole – who’s back interning at Woogsworld – has also written a moving post about her mum. Head on over and read that one too. Take your tissues.