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.
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.