Emma Betts is dying.
She’s sitting on the couch with her dog Ralph, talking to us from her Brisbane home. The cancer she first discovered when she was 21 has stopped responding to treatment and there are no treatments left. She is 25.
She hates the word ‘fighter’ and has forbidden anyone to use the phrase ‘lost her battle with cancer’ at her funeral.
“It gives you a sense of failure and I’ve tried my hardest. I’m not giving up, but it doesn’t matter how much I fight, it’s going to get me,” she told Mamamia‘s Mia Freedman, in this week’s incredibly moving episode of No Filter.
Emma was volunteering in East Timor when she found the mole on her shoulder. “A stranger pointed it out, and said I should get it checked,” she recalled. She came back to Australia, where a biopsy was performed and found it was something similar to melanoma but not quite. Emma was told she needed to return to Brisbane from East Timor every three months for check-ups.
Emma dreamed of working in international aide. She’d been studying international relations at university and she always wanted a family.
“I knew I’d come back to Australia eventually. I was going to be one of the first of my friendship group to have kids,” she said. “The mole didn’t really scare me, I knew what I had to do. I just had to be careful.”
She was careful. She returned to Australia every three months. She did self-checks frequently. When she found a lump under her arm, she hoped it was due to the Dengue fever she’d had a few weeks before.
The doctors did a biopsy to see if it the lump was cancerous – this would mean stage three cancer, and a high risk of being diagnosed with terminal cancer within five years.