teens

“My relationship with my mother is different to my friends' with theirs.”

Breast Screen Victoria
Thanks to our brand partner, Breast Screen Victoria

I vividly remember that day I proclaimed to my mum that when I was a real grown up, I would move out of home and into a house with my best friend. Being eight years old, Samantha and I were frantically planning our future including which beautiful home we would live in, what kind of super cool car we would drive and how we would end up having careers as popstars or fashion designers.

I was in the car with my mum a few streets away from our house when I confessed my grand plan and began pointing out the exact house Samantha and I had decided we would live in. It was on the corner of a residential street and a main road. It was built with light cream brick, had huge glass windows and a front yard filled with wafty trees.

I went on to detail all of the brilliant things we would do when she suddenly interjected.

“You won’t be moving out of home until you get married,” my mum said as she sharply inhaled, “So no, you won’t be moving out with Samantha,” she continued with a deep exhale.

A bit taken aback I tried to argue the point, but she wasn’t having a bar of it and that was well and truly the end of that the conversation. That was the first time I became brutally aware of the fact that my relationship with my mum was very different to the relationship my friend’s had with theirs.

Growing up in Australia with first generation immigrant parents, those differences would become more obvious and more frequent as I grew up. And they particularly came to a head when I hit high school.

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Growing up in Australia with first generation immigrant parents, those differences would become more obvious and more frequent as I grew up. Image: Looking For Alibrandi. 

While my friends were allowed to go out unmonitored, my mum would ring my mobile phone every five minutes to check in. While my friends were allowed to date, I under no circumstances was to have a boyfriend until I was at least in university. Aside from my mum clearly being stricter on me than my friend’s parents, conversations about health and how our bodies worked were rarely had and fairly general when they were.

When I first got my period I had no idea what was happening to me. I frantically ran to my older sister who gave me a pad and within a few hours a box of them had appeared on my bed. I assume they were placed there by my mum and that was the full extent of my welcome into puberty.

As I moved into adulthood we didn’t often talk about preventative health and the sorts of checks that I would need as I got older such as breast screening. I relied mostly on my local GP to guide me through what was necessary.

When I began having sex my GP told me I would need to begin having pap tests. After my first, she informed me that I would receive a letter in the mail detailing my results and that was when panic ensued. Not wanting my mum to know that I was no longer a virgin, I would come home during my lunch break from my casual job to check the mail to be certain she wouldn’t stumble across my letter and find out by accident.

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"I relied mostly on my local GP to guide me through what was necessary." Image via iStock.

Now that I’m in my late 20s however, my mum and I are much more open and honest with each other when it comes to our health and life in general. While it’s been a great big learning curve for both of us, I don’t think our inability to have those discussions came down to the fact that my mum didn’t want to. I don’t think she necessarily knew how to have those conversations.

She was born and raised in a small village with limited access to health care before my grandparents picked up and moved to Australia. I also know she didn’t have those sorts of conversations with my grandmother, again, not because they didn’t want to but they didn’t know how. The importance of regular health checks wasn’t instilled in my mum like it was for myself and the rest of Gen Y.

As I’ve gotten older and become more aware of my health and that of my family’s, in a way I’VE taken on the responsibly when it comes arranging health checks for my mum and myself. After all, she has looked after me my entire life and now that I am old enough to make those decisions and have the power to act on the facts, I want to help look after her too.

I now make sure that we talk to each other about our health and when I arrange for a check-up, I’ll get her to come along with me. I think she’s comforted by us both being there together and knowing she has my full support and she can ask me questions when it comes to anything she isn’t sure of.

Given that the biggest risk factor for being diagnosed with breast cancer is being a woman over the age of 50, I’m particularly vigilant when it comes to her having breast screenings. When I gave my mum those statistics she was shocked because she had no idea that the risk was that high. Giving her all of the facts and going through information with her which is readily available online through the well-known women’s services was helpful in getting her to understand the importance of regular check-ups.

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"The importance of regular health checks wasn’t instilled in my mum like it was for myself and the rest of Gen Y." Image via iStock.

A breast screening only takes 10 minutes, is performed by a woman and is completely free. Early detection of breast cancer is what gives us the best chance of successful treatment and recovery, which is why booking a breast screen once every two years is a positive step towards our own wellbeing.

When we arrived at our local clinic for our first screening, my mum and I were greeted by a female staff member who talked us through the entire process. We were then taken separately by a female radiographer to have two x-rays of each breast which only took a few seconds. Within a few weeks we received our results showed that neither of us had exhibited signs of breast cancer.

I could see it was a huge relief for my mum who then told me that she regretted not having breast screenings performed earlier in her life. She explained to me that she always thought the process was much harder and in depth and had no idea it was that simple.

While my mum only took a very small step in her preventative health, it gave her so much confidence and optimism when it came to looking after herself in the future. After all, knowledge is power when it comes to our health. That’s why it’s so important for us as daughters, nieces, or other key influencers to women aged over 50 to make sure they’re getting checked.

There will never be a better time than now to make those conversations happen. From my experience, I’ve found that a reluctance to get checked usually comes down to not knowing all of the facts. So it’s time to take those women in your life aside and give them the information that will make maintaining their health so much easier. Once you cross that initial bridge, it will be much easier to have those sorts of talks down the track.

What's your relationship with your mum like?