How Do You Say Goodbye to the Most Important Woman in Your Life?


Hey Guys, my name is Bek, I'm 21 years old & I am a CanTeen member and part of the leadership team in the Sydney & Central Division.

My story starts almost 22 years ago when my mum was pregnant with me. She found a skin cancer growth on her face that she got removed and we thought all was well.

In Janurary 2010, my Aunty (mums oldest sister) was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was an agressive form of the cancer and she died 12 months later in the end of December 2010. That was a huge shock to our family and especially to mum. We had a great year in 2011 filled with love and awesome memories ...

Then the big C hit us once again. I had just got home from my part time job and mum and dad asked my younger brother and myself to sit down. Mum didn't waste anytime and blurted out that she had breast cancer. I couldn't handle it, I had already lost my Aunty to breast cancer I didn't want to lose my mum as well. This was all happening during my HSC year, but with the support of my best friends and my teachers I knew I could do both!

Mum had the lump in her breast removed and it was sent away to be biopsied. She went back to the breast cancer specialist and he said to her "you are one of the strangest cases we've seen, because I have never seen melanoma present in breast tissue before" .  She had multiple scans and was later diagnosed with Metastatic Melanoma Stage IV, with mets in her brain, adrenal gland & colon. She underwent six weeks of radiation therapy on her brain, which in turn didn't work. She was put on steroids to control the swelling in her brain. She also had to have emergency surgery in August 2012, as one of the mets in her colon had ruptured. 30cm of bowel had to be taken out for her to survive.

My dad, my brother and I were kept in the dark about how bad mums condition really was. Dad spoke to one of mums doctors and was told that she probably wouldn't make Christmas. Dad broke this news to us, and I didn't want to believe it, I didn't want to lose my mum but most of all I was really angry at mum from keeping this from us. Since I wasn't told anything I turned to the Internet, (bad idea I know) and later found out that mums diagnosis of stage 4 melanoma had a less than 5% survival rate. That's when it finally hit that my mum was going to die.

In September 2012, we were getting ready for our HSC exams as well as graduation and formal. Mum was still really ill and in the oncology unit at Westmead hospital and couldn't make my graduation. My best friend came with me before our graduation to see my mum and have photos taken. Mums whole face lit up and it was the happiest she had been. The next night was formal, I didn't have time before hand to go and see mum and I was devastated. Little did I know, that my dad, my Aunty and the nurses in the oncology unit were working on sneaking me in after hours so I could see her! I turned up a little after midnight still all dressed up, the nurses snuck me in and there was mum waiting up with her roommates. She took one look at me and burst into tears, it was one of my favourite memories.

During my HSC exams we were told that there wasn't anymore treatment that that could try because of how ill and weak mum was. It was all going to be pallative treatment from there on. In November she was transferred to St Joesphs pallative care unit in Auburn. This is where she stayed for the last month of her life.

I wholeheartedly regret not visiting mum more frequently than I did. To this day I still feel extremely guilty, but I didn't want to watch my mum slip away. Most of the time she wasn't really there anyway, she hardly spoke to you and hardly recognised anyone. The cancer had overtaken.

On the 2nd of December 2012, my dad received a phone call from the nurses at St Joesphs telling him we needed to get down there. Dad came and told me and I knew just by the look in his eye, this was it. Dad called everyone including her friends, sisters and my god parents. My god mum came and picked my brother and I up to take us to the hospital. I didn't know what to expect, but as soon as I saw her unconscious I couldn't be in the room. Twenty minutes after we arrived she passed away peacefully.

It didn't feel real, I texted my best friends and told them as well as my boss.  I then isolated myself for about a week. I felt numb, I didn't know how to shake it. Mums funeral was 10 days later, that's when it finally sunk in that she was really gone. I don't remember much of that day other than being passed around to all my relatives and getting hugged and cried on. But the best thing about that day was having my best friends there and then them coming back after the funeral and staying the night with me. I couldn't thank them enough.

Its been just just over three years since mum died. I'm not gonna lie, it has been the hardest three years without her here but in all that I have learnt quite a lot. I wouldn't be able to do all this without my dad, my friends and my beautiful canteen family.

Grief is hard, but it's one of the most common human occurrences. Everybody grieves differently and there is no time span on grief or when your allowed to grieve. I'm not saying it ever gets easier but it does get better to cope with. You need the support whether you know that or not, it's okay to ask for help and it's also okay not to seek help. I would not be where I am today if I didn't do my research and find canteen, I would have made these connection and friendships with all these people and I wouldn't have gotten the support I needed. So don't be afraid to ask for help, because it is definitely worth it!

Bek x