I guess my story begins a few years ago when I heard four words which would change my life forever. Hen. I’ve. Got. Cancer. These 4 four words were said to me by the most beautiful, the most caring, the most giving and thoughtful woman I know. My mum. I was 24 years at the time and every single day for those 24 years I had heard her voice, I had her shared her hugs and I had been loved unconditionally by her. But on that day, I didn’t want to hear her voice because all I was hearing was cancer, I didn’t want to hug her, because it had now become a frightened embrace and I didn’t want to receive her love for I felt it was now a limited commodity and needed to be savoured.
She was my world. Everything I did, was to share with my mum, everything I achieved, was to make her proud and every step I took was guided by her wisdom and love. You couldn’t meet a bigger mamma’s boy than me, haha. It is my armour, and I wear that title with pure joy and pride. She had been my soulmate for 24 years and knowing that she was about to go through the biggest battle of her life and I couldn’t do anything about it – scared the shit out of me.
For the next four days I didn’t want to face the adversity that was heading our way. I went to a place of anger, sadness and self-pity and questioned everything. I wanted to avoid the adversity. Why does this have to happen to me? Why my mum? Why cancer? How long will she live for? Is she going to die? Adversity had begun to show its head before the battle had even started.
However, on the fifth day, I saw my mum laugh for the first time since she told us the news. It brightened the room, and showed me why I had to fight this monster with everything I had, so I went ahead and set a goal. I set a goal to do everything in my power to get mum one more day on this earth – laughing, loving and breathing. I had left the uncontrollable behind and focussed on what I could control.
I wasn’t a doctor. I wasn’t a surgeon. I wasn’t a naturopath nor was I a psychologist and I didn’t have the skills around dealing with cancer but I had the willingness to learn about the disease, the courage to fight it and the drive that wouldn’t be haltered by any adversity that came from a battle like this. Anything that I could do to help mum get one more day on this earth, I would do and I wouldn’t look back.
I began researching pancreatic cancer. I immersed myself in books, blogs, podcasts, articles, news, absolutely anything that I could to learn more ways to help mum on this journey. I surrounded myself in cancer. I wasn’t going to wait for the information to come to me, or sit there hoping that the therapies would do their job, because that was out of my control, I needed to go and find it out for myself and gain that control back in my life. I barely knew what a pancreas was when I heard the news but 2 weeks later I knew it like the back of my hand and although finding out more about cancer is downright scary, the knowledge I gained sharpened my mind and gave me ammunition to fight.
I learnt about nutrition and started changing mums diet. We cut out meat and sugar as I learnt about the acidity levels of the body and I went to the markets weekly to get things like wheatgrass, turmeric and things I never knew about to make all sorts of concoctions because I had read that bringing the bodies Ph. levels down made cancer less powerful. I learnt about salt lamps and natural healing and I would force my mum to walk bare foot in parks, because I read that if you connect your body to the ground it can bring healing benefits. I made sure every day I would enter her room, with the biggest smile you could imagine on my face, because I was told that positivity brought positivity. There wasn’t a stone unturned in my mission to achieve my goal.
It had been a year of relentless fighting and what was originally inoperable and a pending death wish became operable and gave a glimmer of hope. The surgeon went in and cut out 80% of her pancreas and removed the tumour successfully. Success! Mum was cancer free after being told 12 months ago that she wouldn’t last months and they had got all of the cancer. Success! Yeowwww, more hugs, more laughs, and more love from the one that I need it from the most.
1 year later, our nightmare returned. After thinking the dark days were behind us, those haunting four words came back. ‘Hen. I’ve. Got. Cancer’. It was like Deja vu but instead of reacting like I did initially to the first cancer, I was straight back to controlling what I could and being proactive in my mission to achieve my goal. We fought, we fought, we fought and we fought until the cancer became manageable and mum started becoming her normal self again. SUCCESS. Again, success. Cancer was not winning on that day!
A year later after managing the second cancer and surviving the first, those four f*&%^ing words came back, but this time, there were a few more added. Hen, I’ve got cancer, and we can’t do anything, I’m going to die. After three years from initial diagnosis, we were told there was nothing more we could do. No chemo, no radio, no surgery, nothing. She was going to die. I knew now, that what I had fought for 3 years so hard, every single second of the day, was about to end. There was going to be a day where I would wake up and not achieve the goal that I set out to achieve three years ago because mum would be gone. No more laughs. No more hugs. And no more love.
3 days later mum had come home and I was in the room where she would take her last breath. I will never forget the night when she passed away. I remember looking over and she was in pain. She could no longer tell me she was in pain or indicate in any way that she was, but I just knew she was. Her body jerked in a way which could only mean agony. To see the most important person in your life, your best friend, your soul mate, your mum in that much pain and not being able to do anything to help – that was my nightmare. That was my living nightmare. I went over and administered what would be her last drugs and it was there where I looked up above and asked for her to be taken. For 1, 047 days my goal was to keep my mum alive, but then, in that moment, I wanted her to go. And she did. She slowed her breathing in my arms, until she didn’t breathe anymore. I began my life being held in my mum’s arms and my mum was leaving the world wrapped in mine twenty seven years later.
When mum said those four words back in 2014 – Hen. I’ve. Got. Cancer. What she really should have said was ‘Hen. Adversity. Is. Coming. Every step of the way adversity confronted our family on this cancer journey but it never stopped us.
When you get told not once, not twice but three times, that your mum’s got cancer and will die.
When you see your mum’s body wither away to skin and bone and see the hair falling off her head daily until she’s barely recognisable anymore.
When you notice a woman whose soul was so pure, become tainted by the darkness that cancer is.
When you hear the shrieks and growls of agony that the constant physical pain brought to your best friend.
When it is your sister’s wedding day and instead of helping her daughter with her makeup, your mum is unresponsive and surrounded by paramedics.
When your sister doesn’t have her mum to watch her walk down the aisle and marry the man of her dreams.
When you see you’re mum no longer talking and knowing who you are.
When you get told your mums going to die, but you never know when that last kiss or goodbye will actually be the last.
And when you see your mum slowly stop breathing surrounded by the family she created and in the home she built.
There wasn’t one moment when these adversities won. There wasn’t one time when we stopped, when we gave up or when we slowed down because what we were fighting for, far outweighed the pain and adversity that came our way. Our purpose and our why was bigger than the god awful adversity that came our way.
This three year battle will forever be my greatest success. Nothing will be able to top what my family and I did and the goal we achieved. Cancer may have taken my mum from me, but it never took the moments and memories that I will forever cherish and the lessons I learnt along the way. To set your goal and overpower the adversities, to achieve it.
It’s pretty strange that my biggest loss in life is equally my greatest success. What I haven’t told you is the statistics around Pancreatic Cancer which I found out five days after mum was diagnosed. 93% of people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will die before 5 years pass. 93%! The average survival time from diagnosis to death is 6 to 9 months! We got three years! If this was in the business setting, you’d be buying stocks in my family, because what we achieved is almost unheard of.
I learnt a lot from this journey and how to truly succeed when arguably the biggest adversities are thrown your way. Now, I shape my life around helping inspire, educate and motivate people going through tough times. I want the lessons I learnt to help inspire others.