Mother with terminal cancer leaves mark on world through new book.

By Robert Virtue

“I’m very afraid of dying. I’m not so much afraid of the pain; I’m just afraid of doing it alone.”

They are the courageous words of Lyndsey Clark, a Newcastle mother living with terminal breast cancer.

Facing your own mortality is a reality that no 29-year-old should ever have to grapple with, but for Ms Clark, that is her reality.

Nineteen months ago, her world was turned on its head when she received her cancer diagnosis.

From the start, the outlook was not good; her cancer was aggressive, and had spread from her breast to her liver and bones.

When she was told she had days to live, her world splintered.

But amid the nightmare, Ms Clark’s thoughts did not turn to herself or the unfairness of it all, but rather, to her then-five-year-old daughter Nyah, whose own life would be dramatically jolted.

“It was just all about her and just the way it was going to impact her and her life, and the fact that she would be walking her life without me,” Ms Clark said.

“I think I always knew that it was bad because I was so sick, and once they had discovered the cancer there, they were really fast in finding it in other places.

“I don’t remember feeling a time where I knew that I was going to beat it. I think I always knew I had it and I had it badly.”

Not long after the news came through, Ms Clark began writing a book for her daughter to help her comprehend the diagnosis and her mother’s seemingly insurmountable fate.

That book, titled My mummy has cancer, is now being published so other parents in similar situations can guide their children through the toughest of life’s chapters.

A web of support

Family is at the centre of Ms Clark’s world. It always has been.

With her husband of four years, Ben, by her side, they welcomed Nyah into their lives six-and-a-half years ago.

Their bond is strong — with photos showing twinkling smiles and a seemingly unbreakable connection gluing their small family together.

When the gloom of cancer swept in, their connection remained as strong as ever, and still does.

She started making lists of things she wanted for her husband and daughter, and had conversations about what life would be like after she was gone.

“It was really tough because I love being a mum. I have such a wonderful life, and to face not only [Nyah’s] loss but then my loss as well — you know, everything that I was about to lose, and am about to lose,” Ms Clark said.


“It’s hard because one couldn’t want for a better life. It’s a huge loss.”

Nyah’s experience of death to that point had only been when their family pet died. Losing her mother was a whole other level.

“She knew what it was to die, but I don’t think she quite understood the permanency of the situation,” Ms Clark said.

“We’ve tried to be really honest with her, but in an age-appropriate way. Her knowledge of what’s going on has grown as she has. I think now she’s at the point where she fully understands.”

Coping with the realities of terminal cancer

Initially, not many doctors wanted to take on Ms Clark’s case.

But after rounds of chemotherapy treatment, she has outlived her prognosis by months.

Over that precious extra time, Ms Clark has collated gifts and letters for her family to receive after she dies.

She has organised gifts for Nyah to receive on every birthday until she turns 21, as well as graduation, housewarming, engagement, wedding and baby presents.

She has written her letters of advice and stories that give glimpses into the woman her mother is.

“I’ve just been so lucky; I’ve been surrounded by just such a community of support and love,” Ms Clark said.

“I want [Nyah] to know how much she is loved, always, and how proud I was to be her mum.

“I hope that [Ben] moves on and has happiness again.

“They’ve probably been the two biggest things for me that I’ve had to come to terms with: that their life is going to go on, and I want that, but it hurts. But I want that for them very much.”

Facing and comprehending your own mortality is something that is constantly trailing Ms Clark.

Every minute, every moment — no matter sweet or bitter — is precious.

“I’m very afraid of dying,” she said.

“I’ve never had to do anything in my life alone, ever. I’ve always had the support of my family, and then I found Ben, and we’ve got a beautiful marriage and relationship.

“I just wish I could have someone there to do it with me, hold my hand and tell me everything was going to be ok.

“No-one knows what that next step is going to look like. I just wish that I didn’t have to be alone.”

Ms Clark’s oncologist has told her that her treatment options are now becoming limited.


Making the best of a nightmare

Out of all the pain, torment, unfairness and sadness of Ms Clark’s cancer battle, she is leaving her impression on the wider world in the form of a book.

Ms Clark wrote My mummy has cancer with two of her best friends, and often while she was undergoing treatment.

After selling the initial 50 copies she had printed within three hours, the book is now being published on a larger-scale.

She hopes it can help other parents in similar situations to teach their children about the terminal cancer process.

“[Cancer is] something that really happens around the world every single day; children lose their parents to this disease every single day,” Ms Clark said.

“There needs to be more support and more awareness around what that means.

“I think there’s a huge gap [in the market], and I’m starting to realise more and more how big it is.

“I’d really like to get [the book] out there to hospitals, schools, daycares and just have it as a resource for if they ever need it.

“I think cancer is such a prominent thing in our society now, [and] children face it and they know. At age six they know what it is to die and get sick.”

Ms Clark said since Nyah read her book, it has opened up conversation between the pair about cancer and what lies ahead.

“It’s already done the job I wanted it to do,” Ms Clark said.

“Through my writing, that’s been the biggest way for me to cope with my feelings and thoughts.

“I feel like I’ve fought really hard to still be a friend, a mum, a wife, an aunty, a godmother; that’s how I want to be remembered mostly — as someone who had a lot of love and always tried really hard to do the right thing and make people happy.

“I don’t want people to immediately connect me with cancer when they think of me. I want them to think of everything that I was — as a well-rounded, full person.

“I’m at the stage now where I’m pushing really hard to complete all the things that I’d like to complete on my list — all my cards and gifts for my loved ones.

“Then, hopefully just enjoy what’s left.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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