My Story is about My mother

This event took place from 26 Mar 2013 to 03 Aug 2014

The Discovery

In March 2013, my mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In hindsight, we believe she was exhibiting symptoms for 12 to 18 months prior to diagnosis. In the leadup to her diagnosis, her sugars were fluctuating and she lost her appetite. She was also having stomach pains and back pains. As she was insulin resistant, she was already under the care of an endocrinologist, who sent her to a gastroenterologist for further testing.
Originally, mum was believed to be a candidate for surgery. But upon further investigation, doctors found that the tumour was wrapped around the portal vein. Chemotherapy was recommended in the hopes that the tumour would shrink.
Mum ended up not being able to have the whipple. In total, she had 13 rounds of chemotherapy, 10 intensive days of radiation, several attempts to insert a stent to fix a blocked bile duct and multiple drains of excess fluid from her abdomen.

This is My Story

After mum passed away, my family and I created #PurpleOurWorld – a social media movement dedicated to raising awareness of pancreatic cancer. We are so proud to work alongside our pancreatic cancer community in Australia – Garvan Institute of Medical Research, GI Cancer Institute, Pancare Foundation and Pankind – and to be an inaugural member of the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition. We have made friends for life (only those who fully understand the devastation of pancreatic cancer can truly empathise with what we’ve been through) and we honestly feel like we are making a difference.

The Impact of Time

Five months after my mum was diagnosed, my now-husband proposed to me. It was a beautiful time for us as a family, but throughout the wedding planning process, there was a very real possibility that my mum wouldn’t make it to walk me down the aisle. In fact, at one stage, there was talk about bringing forward the wedding. But mum continued her treatment and continued to live her best life, as much as she could. She organised my engagement party, and came with me to every appointment with my dress-maker, the decorator and the caterers. She sat at the dining table, lovingly dictating what songs the band was allowed to play and what they weren’t. She even managed to come to choose my bridesmaids dresses with me and the girls. In between these appointments, we went wig shopping, I drove her to the hospital to get her chemo bag removed, I spent time with her in the emergency department when she experienced symptoms of jaundice. It was a time of true juxtapositions.

I’ll never forget, when she did show symptoms of jaundice and we rushed her to the emergency room, my dad turned to me and said “this is usually the first sign of pancreatic cancer”. By that stage, mum had been receiving treatment for approximately six months.

Knowing that it would take a couple of months for her to regain her strength following her treatment, mum took a break in early 2014 so she would feel strong on my wedding day. And on my wedding day, she not only walked me down the aisle, but she made her speech and spent the majority of the night boogy-ing on the dance floor. Of course, there were moments of pacing the foyer in pain, but she made it through. And I will forever be thankful that the treatment she had gave us those moments together. As I said during my speech at my wedding, she absolutely lit up the room and was the most beautiful person there – I was the bride, I was allowed to say that.

Following my wedding, my mum went downhill. By July, we were being told there was nothing further doctors could do. On 2 August, my mum’s breathing started to slow. Over the course of the weekend, our immediate family never left her side, and on 3 August at around 2pm, my mum passed away, holding the hands of my dad, my sister and I. There were about 30 other family members in the room with us.