Therese (Sharon)

My breast cancer journey started when my sister, Sharon, was diagnosed in 2015. It was the first day of kindergarten for my son, so it was already an emotional day for me. Nothing could prepare me for the journey that the next 5 years (and still now) would hold. Prior to Sharon’s diagnosis, I’d obviously heard of breast cancer, and I’d known of a few (mainly older) ladies who had it, but I didn’t realise how many different types there were and how complicated it was to treat. We didn’t have a history of breast cancer in our family, so it was a tremendous shock when she told us.

It was so hard for me, as I lived in another state, and all I wanted to do was give her a big hug. Sharon had her surgeries and treatments and was clear for a period, but unfortunately, it returned, and she lost her battle in 2020, aged 46, leaving behind her two daughters. Sharon endured so much in her battle, dealing with the side effects of treatments, having so many surgeries (some of which just to feel “whole” again), knowing every day she had a ticking time bomb inside of her, but mostly, she worried how her girls would cope without her. In the end, even though Sharon knew she was close to death, it still came sooner than she anticipated, she still had many things she wanted to do.

While Sharon’s story is horrific, and I hope that I never have to walk down that path, mine is a story of helplessness. You can’t understand until you’ve been through this. Supporting, watching, and caring for a loved one through an illness like this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Every time Sharon had a body scan, a blood test, or an appointment with her oncologist, I too, nervously waited for the outcome, hoping for good news. When the results weren’t so great, it took so much emotional strength to say to her, “stay positive, things will work out”, when really, I just wanted to burst into tears, which I always did once I got off the phone with her. There was a long period of time where I would cry in the car all the way to work and all the way home again.

I remember the beginning of the end; it was a frantic call from Sharon saying through tears “I’m never going to see you again”. You see, covid had hit and the Queensland border was closed, and I hadn’t seen Sharon since the Christmas before. I had to get documentation from Sharon’s oncologist so that I could apply for an exemption to cross the border. Do you know how it feels when you read “She is in the terminal phase of an incurable illness with the prognosis of days to very short weeks”? Devastation and panic, would I get there in time? I was lucky to be granted an exemption and entered hotel quarantine with my mum and daughter.

Sharon passed away 5 days after we ended quarantine. It was so hard watching a strong, independent, vibrant young women slowly lose control of her mind and body. It started with moments of confusion, to difficulty holding things to eventually drifting off to her eternal sleep. She stills visits me, in the form of a kookaburra, always laughing and smiling.
My message to you all, go and get tested, if not for yourself, do it for your loved ones.

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