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Michelle's Story

09 July 2021

~ 5 minutes

"My mum Kim is mother to Scott, myself, and Shaun, Nan to Georgia, and Lachlan. Mother in law to Megan, Alex & Katie. She and my dad Peter, have been married for 42 years. She's one of three and my dad is one of seven, so our extended family is huge.

Mum was diagnosed in mid-February. She was 64 years old. The tumours were found because she had a heap of fluid in her abdomen and she was in a lot of pain. After being given antibiotics - which of course didn't work - mum was told all signs pointed to ovarian cancer. When she told us, it was heartbreaking for the whole family. Mum had had a hysterectomy five years ago, however as I am sure you know, they don't take your ovaries. This was hard to take at first, but we now know there are reasons for that decision as well.

It was a tense wait while we waited to find out exactly what we were dealing with. When we did find out, we were told it was much more advanced than first thought, stage four. We were lucky that Mum got in to see the doctors at St George hospital in Sydney quickly. 

Mum and dad were set up with a Cancer Navigator fairly quickly - obviously there was a lot of information to take in and it was all quite overwhelming - she helped a lot. She was also given several options for a wig, we chose Suzanne Wigs in the city, Dad & I went with her - it was amazing. Suzanne is affiliated with Breast Cancer Australia so she was very experienced in dealing with cancer patients, her approach was very straightforward and honest - this may not be everybody's cup of tea but for our family, it was perfect. 

Mum - and by extension, the rest of us - are very much 'just get on with it' kind of people. Once we got our heads around the situation, it was all positive thinking and determined to get through it together. I understand this may not be the way for everyone but for our family, it works. 

Back to Suzanne, she matched mum's hair perfectly, right down to the few grey side strands, it was incredible. They also offered to shave mum's head - mum had decided that she wanted to get ahead of the hair loss and shave her head, so I suggested she do Shave for a Cure - it was March which was the month for it so it made sense. 

Because I set up her page for Shave for a Cure, my younger brother (Shaun) decided to do his own fundraising and set up a page on Ovarian Cancer. Originally he said he'd shave his head, but as the time drew to a close the amount was increasing, so he made a pledge: if he raised $5,000 he would also shave his beard. He'd had that beard for a very long time, but once everyone found that out, it was game on. He ended up raising $5,500, so all up $11,000 between the two of them. I know I have used the word 'incredible' a few times here but there is no other way to describe the support mum has received.

In terms of her treatment, mum has responded fairly well. Our expectations of cancer treatment were only what we have seen in the movies, vomiting, etc. Mum hasn't had any of that. After her first round, she ended up in hospital. 

Mum had her 'midway' operation in May. It was a stressful day, but she did really well. The report was that they got most of the cancer out, just a few small parts that couldn't be removed. The doctor said it was a very successful operation and mum has been responding really well to her treatment so far so he doesn't see why she won't continue to do well.

On top of that, she is also doing an immunotherapy trial. She could only do it if she didn't have the BRCA gene - that was a tense wait, let me tell you! Turns out she didn't have it so that was a relief to all of us! While her chemo is nearly over (one left), the trial goes for two years.

My dad is part of an online support group run by OCA, he says it helps him a lot. 

The reason I am doing Dry July is obvious, I think. I never realised that I could do it for a specific charity and every year I have always wanted to do it and I have always found reasons not to - travelling, parties, etc. But this year, the reasons TO do it far outweighed the reasons NOT to. My mum has always been strong and resilient, but this year she has really been put to the test. My Aunty and my uncle are also doing dry July for OCA, so it’s become a bit of a family affair!

I also wanted to highlight my dad and his efforts. He is 67 and was planning to retire at the end of this year but that was brought forward to April this year, he was finding that when he was at work he was worried about Mum and when he was with Mum he was worried about work so he made the decision to retire early. Since then he has become an apprentice cleaner/chef/grocery shopper/general life admin moderator - he calls himself that. 

One thing that is important to note about our family is that once we are over the shock of something, we tend to approach most things in life with humour. We find it's the only way to get through things, if we aren't laughing, we're crying and we don't have time for that."

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.