When my beloved aunt Deb was first diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer almost 4 years ago our family was rocked to its core. Like most people we knew very little about this ‘silent killer’ and refused to believe the bleak statistics that were put before us. With the alternative being a complete meltdown I went into research mode, scouring university resources, reading pages upon pages of clinical trial information, looking for anything that would make sense. All through those terrifying initial weeks I spent 95% of the time angry and confused and couldn’t work out why this had happened to someone so fit and healthy and young… the other 5% I felt like truly terrible person as I thought if this was going to happen to one of us Deb was the one who would be brave enough and strong enough to beat the Cancer into submission… And then that magical word came. Remission.
Two years after initial diagnosis and just weeks before Deb and my uncle were due to fly out for an anniversary trip to Italy that had been postponed due to Cancer mark 1, I got a call from Deb one Friday afternoon saying she had something to tell me. When I put the phone down my brother, seeing the look on my face, asked what had happened. As I finished telling him the Cancer battle had not yet been won, his response was “I have something ELSE to tell you”… I will never forget that instant, nauseating, heart pumping in your ears feeling I got when he spoke those words. Our Nonna (grandmother) had also just been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and was going in for surgery. How was this even possible? It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, these are good people… these are people I love and adore and can’t live my life without… Yep, I had a tantrum… what else was there to do. And then I picked myself up and moved in to help look after my cousin whilst Deb had treatment, because that’s what we have to do – keep going.
Last January I flew to Sydney with my aunt and grandmother (at that stage both back in remission) as my mum lay in hospital recovering from a preventative hysterectomy, for a photo shoot with Women’s Day and to film a segment for “Morning’s with Kerri-Anne”… We were a feature of 3 generations touched by Ovarian Cancer in a ‘Teal’ special for awareness month. I will never forget that day and how unbelievably brave and inspirational these two women in my life are. Deb has become a tireless beacon in the plight to raise awareness, and my amazing grandmother who is not at all confident in her English speaking ability spoke on camera about something so terrifying with such bravado.
Both of these tremendous women are no longer in remission… back on the ‘cancer merry-go-round’ as we call it and we have no idea what the future holds. We have learnt to laugh about the tough stuff, a favourite that has now spread even beyond our family is ‘Dory brain’ a name I lovingly gave Deb during her first round of chemo when she was forgetting everything (a la Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’), we appreciate the little things, we take that trip NOW rather than putting it off, and most recently have started taking insurance out on things like theatre and concert tickets because you just never know what is going to happen!! But possibly most importantly, we raise awareness… we talk about this insidious disease, we talk about body awareness, do interviews, write blog posts, attend and spread the word about fun runs and fundraising events… you name it, we’ll do it in the hope that one day others won’t have to live the same fight.
My heart rate sky rockets and tears spring instantly to my eyes when I think about the milestones in my life that I might not get to share with 2 of my most cherished people. It is the most frustrating, hopeless feeling to love someone who is suffering, but I believe the most important thing we can do is make sure they know how much we love them. If they depart us knowing that, I believe we have done everything we could and all they would have asked for.
Netanya is building a business by day and an aspiring writer by night. She couldn’t live with out F.F.F.F – Friends, Family, Food and Fashion. You can follow her on Twitter here