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"Seeing the fear in his eyes that he may die broke my heart."

Samantha and Warwick.

By Samantha Lehmann

In 2005, my brother died of cancer at age 35. He was a loving husband and father to his gorgeous baby boy. This was the last thing anyone would ever have imagined would happen to him and my family.

At the age of 30 Warwick was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour which tore his happy world apart. Watching him struggle through treatment and its side effects, his inability to work, his loss of independence and seeing the fear in his eyes that he may die broke my heart.

Once Warwick had his operation to remove his brain tumour, he had intense radiotherapy for 6 weeks. He was then told by his surgeon he may not make it to 70. He lived the next four and half years relatively well and content, he married his long term girlfriend and they had a son. Sadly when Declan was five months old his cancer returned and he died six months later.

While I was grieving I often thought about what Warwick went through and I could not understand why he was not in a support group with people his own age. I also wondered why he received treatment surrounded by people over 55 – surely there were other young adults in his shoes?

Although we were family, we did not have access to any resources or information about his illness and its effects. We were given no warning about what happens to the body when it starts shutting down and dying. It is very distressing watching someone you love going through the ‘typical’ stages of death and not being informed about them beforehand.

As a young adult myself, I also thought about the effect on my loved ones if I was diagnosed with cancer. As a mother I knew the issues and challenges would be great and I wondered how we as a family would cope with a serious illness like Warwick’s. How would I continue bringing up my two young girls faced with a grim diagnosis? How would I explain things to them? After living the past 10 years of my life as an independent adult would I have to rely heavily on my parents again? What would my future hold?

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It was clear to me that with the love I had for my brother and the strong desire to change what I had learnt and lived through, I needed to do something. The Warwick Cancer Foundation needed to be formed. I was determined to put this special age gap on the map. My aim was to empower young adults with more knowledge, treatment options; support networks and assistance services that suited their unique needs so they could fight this insidious disease more confidently, feeling more cared for, less isolated and well informed.

Last year our membership grew by a massive 250 per cent – and as the fastest growing age group facing cancer, with more than 10 million new cancer diagnoses each year worldwide – we expect this to grow even more.

However with no government funding and increasingly stretched resources, we rely solely on the generosity of the general public and the individuals and businesses who support us to continue our work in delivering important services to those going through cancer, and those who are caring for them. Our programs include ‘Mates in my Shoes’ which connects newly diagnosed with other patients, survivors and caregivers who agree to be there to support them. ‘Get Spoilt’ events, a ‘Wellness Program’, ‘Escapes’ and Warwick’s Wishes which provides terminal cancer patients with a personal wish.

Unfortunately as one of many cancer support organisations competing for the same fundraising dollar, The Warwick Cancer Foundation desperately needs funding to continue its important work in easing the strain and addressing the unique needs of this forgotten age group living with cancer.

To learn more, you can visit The Warwick Cancer Foundation website – or make a donation here.

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