health

Three years ago, newsreader Candice Wyatt lost her mum to brain cancer.

I’ve been a journalist for 13 years. I’ve worked at Channel Ten for six of those and I’ve been reading the bulletin for two. But that’s not why I became an ambassador for Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

Three years ago my ridiculously fit and healthy Mum was struck down with vertigo. Her doctor in the country said there was ‘something going around’ and gave her a course of antibiotics. Of course, that did nothing, so she returned and eventually had scans. They revealed two tiny spots on her brain and so she was put in a fixed wing aeroplane and flown to Melbourne for surgery.

By the time she arrived at St Vincent’s Hospital, her left foot had turned in slightly and she was unsteady on her feet. I was horrified to see how quickly it had affected her. She was operated on less than 48 hours later in a seven and a half hour operation. She woke up not being able to use her left leg or her left arm, and that’s way it remained.

My Mum, who had just trekked Kokoda twice and was about to start training for a marathon, never walked again. On the Tuesday, we were told she was battling a monster – a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) Category 4. She stayed at St Vincent’s for six weeks doing rehab to try to get her limbs working again, but they didn’t.

Candice and her mum. Image supplied.

From there she went to Geelong for radiotherapy treatment, and that’s where the seizures started. After four weeks she was moved to her closest hospital, the Warrnambool Base. She was unable to go home to our farm because she was immobile and needed so much care. In between running a one-man business and our property, my stepfather was unable to cope with having her at home and, of course, I live and work here in Melbourne. And so it was that every spare second of our lives was now also spent at the hospital.

On October 19, 2013 I watched her take her final breath, six months and 16 days since she was diagnosed. In that time I’d seen my mother paralysed, lose her long hair that was so central to her identity, suffer seizures, put on an extraordinary amount of weight due to the medication she was on to control the swelling in her brain and battle confusion and personality changes that often made her confused and aggressive. This monster slowly and methodically destroyed my mother over that period until it finally robbed her of her life at the age of just 56.

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I never knew much about brain cancer but now I’m obsessed. Obsessed with trying to make a difference, obsessed with raising awareness, obsessed with reading about new research, progress and developments and obsessed with hearing about other people’s journeys because, I’ve discovered, no two are the same. We’re all part of one big family now.

Listen: Carrie Bickmore speaks about her brain cancer fundraiser, Brain Beats. (Post continues after audio.)

Last month was my Mum’s third anniversary. The first one was a horrendous experience but the second was quite the opposite. I now feel a certain kind of peace at the cemetery and it’s the same feeling I’ve felt in my own life lately.

I’ve stopped crying in the shower daily. I’ve also stopped having nightmares about her; the kind that would make it too scary to go back to sleep.

Instead I’ve started to talk about her, like I am now, raising awareness and ensuring her memory lives on. I don’t want her to be another brain cancer statistic, because they’re not pretty. Only two in 10 people will survive brain cancer and that hasn’t changed in three decades. Roughly one person is diagnosed in Australia every five hours and on average one person dies every seven hours.

That's why events like Walk4BrainCancer are so important. Not only do they raise awareness, they also help fund the vital research that will change those awful statistics.

It’s too late for the people we’ve lost, but we owe it to the ones who will come after them.

While Candice is the ambassador for the Melbourne event, there are walks happening across Australia throughout November. For more information or to find your nearest event, visit http://www.walk4braincancer.com.au/.