This Sunday, May 8, is Mother’s Day, a date made all the more poignant to me because it’s also World Ovarian Cancer Day and I lost my Mum Elsie to ovarian cancer when I was 30 years old.
When I was really little, I remember sneaking out of bed to watch the Moscow Olympics and dreaming of wearing the green and gold, I actually announced to my mum and dad that I was going to go to the Olympics when I was big!
Twenty years after retiring and now in my 40s it sometimes feels like a dream that I represented Australia three times in Olympic competition, let alone winning medals at the Olympic, Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs!
In my early life, I never gave any thought to whether or not the people I loved would be by my side as I achieved my dreams through my swimming career and my life after sport. After swimming I went on to marry an amazing man, Marty and have three wonderful children, Ella, Joshua and Robinson, and establish a post-swimming television career that I love.
Nicole representing Australia at the Olympics. Image: Supplied.
When I was in my late 20s my mum retired from her job as a chef and began experiencing a range of symptoms including bloating, abdominal pain, feeling full after eating a small amount, and needing to go to the toilet a lot. We thought it was all due to her not being as busy and active in retirement. Experienced individually these symptoms were vague and hard to pin down, but in combination they were indicative of something entirely more serious. They meant ovarian cancer.
There isn’t any one test that can diagnose ovarian cancer so of the 1,480 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia every year, approximately 75% of women are diagnosed at an advanced stage where the cancer has spread and is difficult to treat. That means only 43% of those diagnosed will survive five years post-diagnosis.
My mum, thankfully kept asking for an answer with her GP after being told it was a range of other reasons. She battled this insidious cancer for three years, in hindsight if she hadn’t pushed for an answer our time with her could have been much less. I was away on a trip in Japan, when my hotel phone rang at 2:47am – never a good sign. It was Marty on the other end and he didn’t even have to speak, I knew. Mum had passed away, and wish I could have been there by her side to say goodbye.