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Carole’s Story (Breast Cancer)

Cristy's Mom Carole's Story Breast Cancer

In February last year, on what was an ordinary day, our worlds collapsed. With one phone call from my mum, everything changed. She had breast cancer. At that stage, this was all we knew. I have two older brothers, and this shook them to their core, just as it did my dad and I. For mum, it had not sunk in at that stage. No one could really say much in those first 48 hours. It was shock and disbelief. Was this really happening to our mum?

There were a million questions we had, and we wanted all the answers right then and there, as my mum also has Behcet’s, a rare but deadly blood disorder. We rushed home, as there was only one place we wanted to be–next to our mum. In her true to form way, she was mostly upset we were taking time from our lives to be there for her. She was upset she was taking us away from our day to day lives. What she needed to know was that she is our life. We would be nowhere else but with her.

Her diagnosis was not good. It was stage 4 breast cancer. It did not feel like a pea, as we are told to feel for. It felt much larger than that and was just all of a sudden there. It developed within only 12 months, as her mammograms are always up to date, as unfortunately, her sister, my Aunty Kathy, has also fought this horrible disease, but with the same grace and dignity as my mum. My beautiful, kind and happy Aunty also won the battle against this thing called breast cancer.

Shock cannot describe hearing that word–CANCER. Sitting beside mum in the oncologist’s office, everything went into slow motion. I cannot imagine the fear she felt, but she didn’t show it. She faced this news with her normal strength and grace, but we had fear, like none we had known before. We wanted this cancer out of her.

I kept saying, “Why her? Why her? She has had enough to suffer through.” My mum turned to me and said, “Why not me? So many others have had to get over this pink mountain,” as she started to refer to it.

The day of surgery came, and it was for my dad, my brothers, our partners, and I, a terrifying blur. This was our mum, our best friend, and for the first time throughout this, I saw her fear when she was looking at my brothers, my dad and I, getting ready to go into theatre. This was really happening!

Her Behcet’s meant she could have bled to death during surgery. Her blood always has to be thin in order to keep it from clotting. The surgeons needed her blood to thicken to operate, but too thick would mean that clots were a very real and life-threatening possibility, so there was double the fear we could lose her, not only to this aggressive cancer but during surgery to a clot and the many other factors associated with Behcet’s. We came close to losing her some years back to Behcet’s. It had caused an aortic aneurysm. Thankfully, she made it through a triple A, and now she was forcedarole to fight again to get through this.

“Why” was all I could say! I was so angry at everything. This just didn’t seem fair. It seemed so cruel. It was numbing, something I now know many supporters of loved ones going through cancer feel.

Those hours waiting at the hospital for her to come out from surgery were hell on earth, but soon she was with us in recovery, true to form, she was happy. I think she was happy to just be there with us, happy her grandchildren were there offering her a lollipop. My nephew reaching up from his pram to give Nanna his lollipop was the only time in that first visit to the hospital that she got teary. They were relief tears, I think.

The lumpectomy and removal of lymph nodes was just the beginning of beating this cancer. Next, she started 18 weeks of chemotherapy. This is where my heart broke in those months. My mum, this amazingly strong, positive, funny, graceful and beautiful woman was weak, sick, frail and just trying to get up each day. But she did get up each and every day. Sometimes it was just to take the countless medications that came with this process, sometimes it was just for 10 minutes, but she forced herself to get up, sometimes just to keep me company. That’s who my mum is. I worried I would be bored by the hours spent at home with her. But I was not bored, and I was not leaving her side. Despite having no strength or want to get up, her will and courage beat out the want to stay in bed. She got up and got dressed, which most days took all the energy she had.

The day came where her hair was falling in large chunks, so again, like the champion she is, she stated, “Let’s just get rid of it.” What a hard thing to face as a woman. I offered to shave my head too, but no!! She would not have a bar of that.

She faced that alone, allowing me to be playful whilst shaving it and giving her a mohawk. It only stayed for 5 minutes, much to mine and my brothers’ horror. We thought she looked great with a little mohawk. What mattered on that day was that she had her sense of humour, during what had to have been a horrible moment for any woman.

We were blessed to have a wonderful, caring, and supportive friend, Shelly, who owns Starkles on the Gold Coast. Shelly and her family help run the look good, feel good workshops. Having watched my mum go through this, I think this is an organisation that deserves amazing recognition. We got a beautiful wig and so many lovely scarves and fake fringes and learnt so many things to help make a woman feel like a woman when she is feeling her worst. Having those little things made a world of difference.

Chemo was a road tougher than anyone of us could of imagined. It put mum in intensive care on one occasion and in hospital on many other occasions. Not once did she complain, through kidney infections and through pain which made her white as a sheet, she was going to win this battle and fight it, even though she had no fight left. Chemo was taking all her fight from her and breaking her down a little more each round she endured. But every three weeks, she found a little more strength. She really only got two days every month of feeling okay. The rest was horrible, unbearable sickness, as most on this site know.

I cried every single night in the shower. I would not cry in front of her and told her I had sinus when she would question why I was puffy and red around the eyes. She kept giving me antibiotics, worrying more about us than herself. I would flush them down the toilet, having to tell my dad if the pipes blocked, it was my fault. How could I be selfish and cry when she was not.

I have always admired my parents. To say I admire them now is an injustice. They simply astound me. It’s the same for my brothers, as I could see their fear as they tried to remain the strong men they are for mum, but I could feel their heartbreak and see their fear. They wanted to fight it for her, but it cannot be done. They wanted to protect her, but all they could do was be there for her. They wanted to do more and take this battle on for her, we couldn’t. We had to watch her suffer through it.

But mum eventually got through those 18 weeks of chemo. How she did this and where her strength came from I will never know. It is strength and courage I had never witnessed, and to say I am proud of her is an understatement. I am so grateful for our lifelong family friends who made things a little easier just by being there for her. The ones who love you, I believe, are a huge part of beating this disease.

Next was radiation for weeks and weeks on end. Although it burnt her skin badly and left her exhausted and tired, she again didn’t complain. She didn’t complain that the radiation was a massive concern for the Behcet’s. All these cancer fighting treatments required to save her life were working against the treatments needed to keep her alive from Behcet’s. It was terrifying.

Today, mum has been finished with treatment for a little under a year. The wig is gone, and in its place is beautiful “fluffy” brown hair. In place of her sickness is happiness and the want to help other women through this, even though she is still healing herself. Us, her children, inclusive of our partners, we just look at her in awe as she has conquered a mountain so big and seemingly impossible with determination, grace and dignity and fought with all she had to stay alive for both herself and for us. My sister-in-law said it perfectly during those tough months: “This cancer will never be the same once mum gives it the punishing defeat it deserves.” And she did punish it, and she did defeat it!!

Never having been in a chemotherapy ward before, we were back then blissfully unaware of the amazing and tireless work the nurses, doctors and volunteers do for cancer patients. Without the amazing men and woman at the Port Macquarie cancer unit, we would not have our mum. Our world would have fallen to pieces. We will forever be in their debt.

Never give up if you are going through this horrid disease. Even on the days you feel you have nothing left to fight with, don’t give up. I could see it on the days mum wanted to give up. Who could blame her? But she had to push that negativity from her mind, and if you are a son or daughter watching a parent go through this, just hold their hand and let them know you will push or pull them over “the pink mountain.” When they think they have no more fight, remind them that there is a light on the other side of that mountain!!

To my beautiful mum, you have always been the kind of woman I hope to be. I always believed you could move mountains. Now I know for certain you can. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for being the fighter you are. You inspire me every day to be better, to do better, to live my life my way and to the fullest. You have shown me nothing is impossible. You are the bravest woman I know, and I am thankful every day you are my mum.

Here is my hero, looking amazing 4 weeks after her last chemo and a week before starting radiation.

Cristy
Australia
Submitted 06/06/2016

The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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15 comments

  1. Love You Cristy,Troy Kevin and Long suffering husband Keith.We get through this because of you guys.xx

  2. Thanks to my sisters and brothers.some of whom cancer has also touched.One postitve thing my sister told me I still hold on to, If your pink mountains (as I called breast cancer)seem to high,don’t look up don’t look down look sideways and we’ll be there with you.I hope anyone going through this has this kind of support xx

  3. Goes without saying,Doctors like Dr.Begbie,Dr.Hansen,Dr.Wickham,and the entire team at Port Macquarie Base Hospital Cancer Unit,helped not only me but many thousands and continue to do so,they are supportive,caring,truthful,all have time and this includes time for families,no question is a silly question to them.Thank God there are caring,intelligent and respectful people like this,who take every step with you.
    Thank you all

  4. Brigitte Estelle

    Dearest Christy,

    What a beautiful story that you have honored your mom with and have given the chance to others to hear your supporting words of hope, love, joy that comes after hard work! Your immediate family , family members, friends, I, from Canada thank y’all support to keep Carole’s strength and courage throughout her journey ! Christy and Carole, please keep writing to others we all need heroes like you… both ♡

    To Carole,
    You are inspiring and lovely ♡♥♡♥♡♥♡♥
    Remember you have cancer “IT” does not have you !!!

    With love from Canada,
    Brigitte Estelle

    my story I had written for my sister is in the section of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma Diane Gaudreault (Brigitte Estelle fights like a girl … you are welcome to write to her !

    • Brigitte Estelle

      http://www.fightlikeagirlclub.com/brigitte-estelles-fight-like-a-girl-story-non-hodgkins-lymphoma/

      for my sister Diane if you would like to encourage her with your inspiring love for life !!
      Brigitte Estelle

    • clgrinham@gmail.com

      Dear Estelle,

      Thank you for your kind, lovely and inspiring words, and for seeing my mum how I do lovely and such an inspiration, you put it perfectly saying “people have cancer it does not have them” that is such a powerful statement, and one I will continue to always use.

      My Mum and I both send our positive thoughts, kindness and strength to your sister, what a true and strong fighter she is, with love like yours she will surely conquer the horrid pink mountain.
      Diane you are in our prayers, as are you Estelle and your extended family, Diane keep going you will punish and defeat this cancer, on the days you feel you cannot give more fight just look beside you to Estelle and she will lend you her strength to fight the mountain.
      From our family to yours we hope to see you on here soon wearing the crown of a conquer, of which you already are on. Diane you are one of the ladies I now call miracle women, stay strong and know that we are keeping you in our thoughts
      Kind regards
      Cristy

    • Hi Estelle and Dianne, I really hope Dianne you are getting on with your fight and not letting it fight you,as it can easily do.You obviously have love and hope around you and you defiantly do need this,sure you have horrible days where you wonder why am I doing this,then you remember your doing it because you have people who love you,but mostly you do it for yourself.Sure you’ll have bad days I still do but I keep reminding myself I didn’t go through this nor did my husband or children for nothing I went through it because I want to live as long as I can to be with these people whom I adore.Never ever give up or give in.
      Stay positive and strong.
      Best Regards
      Carole

      • Diane Gaudreault

        Thankyou Carole,

        I read your lovely supporting positive comments and yes i will never give up or give in…there are bad days and good days . When i have those bad days where i dont feel like getting up is when i force myself to get dressed and take my dogs for a walk in this beautiful country in New Zealand where i live..
        Cancer teaches you a lesson in life and its not to take anything for granted. 🙂

        My sister is a very supportive and intelligent woman i have ever met and by the way she is a good writer to my amazement… she should write a book. whereas im not that patient and than i run out of words haha ..
        I will admit that its hard sometimes to be positive and strong as we are only human but than at the end of the day we are!
        Take care and have a lovely day
        Cheers
        Diane

  5. Diane Gaudreault

    What a story to read and lots of love and support at that … Yes you can climb the pink mountain and keep on tracking xxoo

  6. Bonjour Christy and a special ♡Bonjour Carole♡,
    Everything ok? Are you guys beautifully keeping your smile bright and working hard on your positive strength? I am sure that the whole family’s praying, lovingly caring for Carole and picking up on Carole’s positivness !! Keep writing !!
    With love from Canada,
    Brigitte Estelle X X
    silverbell@live.ca

    • Hi Bridgitte,thank you,we are all well and happy,I’m very lucky to have such supportive and loving people around me,that always keeps me positive.I have since treatment had terrible depression but feel I’m beating that ,apparently it can be quite common after Chemo and radiation(shame we are not told about this little curved ball before it hits you between the eyes)
      I am strong I get this from my amazing children,husband and grandchildren,my only problem is I cannot wear my beautiful shoes (as seen in photo)owing to nerve loss in feet (another thing we are not told)Cristy and I are shoe freeks,well if that’s all I have to complain about I’m lucky. I hope everyone Cancer touches patients and their families have the love and support I had,but sadly I’m sure a lot don’t and I really feel for them as its not something anyone needs to go through alone.
      Best Wishes
      Carole Cross xx

      • Dearest sweet Carole,

        Awww my lord, hahaha I do get it and understand completly about loving shoes!! Hahaha! You made me laugh aloud, thank you for that!
        You are such a cutie pie and by the way, I would follow you in your footsteps ” barefeet” if I had to!

        You inspire me, with your love of words so confidant, so sweet, you and Cristy took the time to write to my sister Diane, you touched her with your kindness , prayers, your words of wisdom and strength brought peace to our “moment” !
        I say moment because I try to live in the moment, I used to plan and take charge for tomorrow and get frustrated nothing was going the way I thought things should go for me and my plans. Well ,today when things come unexpectedly to me or my day, I face it, think about it and tell myself ; okay so now what , what does life has planned for me, do I go against it or do my best to understand and confront the situation!
        What is facing you now Carole is life, life is happening to you now, certainly was not your plan but this is where you are the student and not the patient you are learning a new step in life in your everday life, you will study and /or go through the process physically, mentally. You could study the goods and the bads, understand your ups and downs, write a personal inspiring journal, then when you find yourself “living in the moment” read your journal and look on how you are strong, understanding that you are going through a rough process that will and can be defeated with a great positive mind and spirit… with or without shoes!
        I am truly sorry Carole for the harsh journey and depression, and yes, you are Human you have total rights to hate, complain, and to be critical, you know why, because it is the shitty medication, and the damn chemotherapy etc… It is a normal process that you must take and endure for the time being, but after that ” YOU ARE IN CONTROL” of your feelings, thoughts, emotions, plans for whatever comes along.
        So yes, pretty Carole, you must go step by step one foot infront of the other…
        And with that journal you could actually keep it near you to read and/or inspire others with your journey to learn how to understand and keeping it together through hard times.

        Just for today lord…
        …I will live through the next twelve hours and not try to tackle all of life’s problem at once. I will improve my mind, I will learn something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will be agreable. I will look my best, speak in a well modulated voice, be courteous and considerate. I will not find fault with friends, relative, or colleagues.
        I will not try to change or improve anyone else but myself. I will have a program I might not follow it exactly, but I will save myself from two enemies. .. hurry and indecision. I will do two things I don’t want to do, just for the exercise… …I will beleive in myself.
        I will beleive in myself. I will give my best to the world and feel confident that the world will give it’s best to me…
        Author unknown.

        KEEP FIGHTING LIKE A GIRL CAROLE !!

        With love from Canada
        Brigitte Estelle xx

        https://www.juliedaniluk.com/
        Fantastik book, meals that heals worth looking into!

  7. Hello Bridget

    Thank you for you well wishes for my mum, and our family, somehow through all that cancer is and does to a person, she is still the most amazing strong and beautiful person both inside and out I have come across, I am just so lucky I not only get to call her Mum but also my best friend. Cancer and it’s treatment leaves marks, that few are told about or is openly discussed, I’m so proud of mum for speaking out about all that this horrid disease does to a person, and continues to do long after treatment ends, but she is a champion my Mum, and as with all the mountains she has faced in life, she will keep conquering them, and we stand right beside her cheering her on. Best wishes and love to you and your family
    Kind Reagrds
    Cristy

    • Brigitte Estelle

      Bonjour Cristy,

      Yes sadly cancer does leave marks in and out, but when you think about it though, to be and have a strong will like your mom, she will (probably not when she is negatively tired due to her medication and so on but she will ) …KICK ASS!!
      Cristy,You are a very nice person and to what seems a very caring daughter♡♡keep fighting like a girl!

      With love from Canada
      Brigitte Estelle xx

  8. Dear Bridget,Dianne Estelle,between my Daughter Cristy and you three beautiful people,I’m still here and 5 years free come February.And I hope this e mail finds you well and happy.
    I thought I would share with you,a greater pain than having Cancer,it’s cuts through me like a knife and that is Cristy has Uterine Cancer,and they have not had their children yet.And I like her will be with every step of the way,she has an amazing husband,brothers that adore,many many true friends will also be with her.What makes so mad why do bad things happen to good people when there are so many people sticking shit in their arms,selling this shit to kids,creeps that hurt children physical and mentally.
    I know Cristy and her amazing husband we’ll get her through it,I’m flying to Brisbane tomorrow,we will laugh and cry together.

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