I am in awe of these two women who had turned a terrible time in their life into something so positive. That’s why today, they are my ‘Rainbows: Inspirational Women’.
Over to Gayle.
This is my first “guest” blog post, so I hope I can do it justice. I was asked to write about Mummy’s Wish and the work that we do. But to get there, I need to tell you my story from the last 5 years.
April 22nd 2006 I gave birth to my daughter. It was not without minor complications, including a blood transfusion for myself, but after a few days of rest and recovery both Laura and I went home. She was the perfect baby, slept through from 6 weeks, slept well, ate well and only cried when she was hungry. I slept well too. So I didn’t understand why I was so exhausted. There were some other little things going on too that weren’t quite making sense, but I put that down to needing the blood just after having Laura.
I went to my GP 3 times for various reasons in the first 12 weeks after Laura was born. First time it was for the lethargy and a cough. I had a blood test that showed I was anaemic so I started taking iron tablets. Anaemia explained the lethargy and the cough. A few weeks later I went back in regards to women’s things (I will spare the details!) and was put back onto the pill as I wasn’t breast feeding. Then I went to the GP once again for women’s things (I had missed a pill and just wanted a simple answer on how to continue), but my regular GP wasn’t available so I saw one of the other GP’s in the clinic. Rather than just accept the 1 reason I was there that day, she went through everything that I had spoken about the previous 2 times and asked many more questions. She seemed very concerned that my cough hadn’t gone away, so she ordered a chest x-ray.
Long story short, I had a tumour 5cm x 7cm in my chest, was admitted to hospital the next day and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had 6 months of chemotherapy and 1 month of radiotherapy. My daughter was just 12 weeks old when this all started. That was five years ago.
During that time I became friends with Bernadette Vella who also had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We swapped stories and gave each other advice on how to get through treatment. We both finished chemotherapy in January 2007 and were ready to start radiotherapy in the February when she was told her cancer had come back, aggressively. One thing I learned during my “journey” was that I felt I needed to give back. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to give, who to, or how. Then as Bernadette was recovering from her double stem cell transplant she decided to start a charity and asked if I would like to help. Here was my “what” to give back.
We decided that providing practical support to mums with cancer, who have young children, is what we wanted to do. We fundraised, we set up a website, we fundraised some more, and then started providing and paying for that practical support such as housecleaning, babysitting, gardening and much more. We have now provided this support to more than 80 mums in the last year, and are aiming for over 150 in the next year.
There are 2 points I wanted to make today. One is to share everything with your GP, you never know what symptoms go together. The other is that out of a very difficult time in my life, a great thing has blossomed!