When 39-year-old Sharon was told she had breast cancer, time stopped.
“I just couldn’t believe it; I was so shocked. I remember looking at my doctor with tears running down my face and thinking, ‘It can’t be breast cancer. I’ve got two little kids. It can’t be breast cancer’.”
Like many women, Sharon assumed she was too young to be diagnosed with cancer.
“About eight weeks before I felt the lump in my breast, I had a small lump come up under my armpit. It didn’t hurt and it really was the tiniest lump, so I thought it was just an ingrown hair.”
The lump didn’t go away and, over time, it began to hurt—which was when Sharon found a second lump, this time in her right breast.
“I remember the night so clearly; it was a Friday night, the kids were in bed and my husband and I were sitting on the couch watching a football game,” Sharon said.
“I’d already made a doctor’s appointment for the following Thursday to get the lump under my arm checked, but I then decided to see a doctor near my work on the Monday.”
“It still didn’t cross my mind that it could be cancer because breast cancer doesn’t run in our family and I was feeling the best I had in awhile. I really thought it was just going to be a cyst,” Sharon said.
But a mammogram and biopsy confirmed the six centimetre lump in Sharon’s right breast was not a cyst—it was cancer.
“After my GP gave me the news, she called my husband but as the phone started ringing I hung up; I didn’t know how to tell him or what to tell him but I knew he would just be devastated, she ended up telling him for me” Sharon said, her eyes filling with tears at the memory.
“Kerry and I are both from New Zealand and have no family here so I then had to ring my mum and my best friends and tell them over the phone and that was really hard.
“It was a really bad night, I hardly slept. I just remember after all the phone calls and putting my kids in bed, I just sat down and cried and cried with my husband.
“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t die. I cannot leave my kids. I can’t do it.’ and from that moment on, I knew I was going to do everything I could and everything I had to to survive.”
Hearing the ‘C word’ was even scarier for Sharon as her dad had died from liver cancer five years earlier.
“Because my dad had died from cancer, Caleb kept saying that everyone dies from cancer, he just didn’t understand.
“My husband Kerry and I explained to both the boys, as much as you can to a seven-year-old and four-year-old, that I had cancer but that I wasn’t going to die.
“We told them that I was going to get very sick and would lose my hair but that it was okay because it would help me fight the cancer and make me better.”
Four weeks after her diagnosis, Sharon underwent a mastectomy before starting six months of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation.
“The chemo was horrendous; I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I was putting poisonous toxins into my body, even if it was to kill something that was trying to kill me.
“I ended up on the bathroom floor for 13 hours; I barely had the energy to lift my head to be sick and I was so cold. My husband was trying to look after the kids and look after me, it was so hard for him.
“Caleb came in to the bathroom and saw me, he was so scared; he asked my husband if I was going to die,” Sharon recalled, crying. “I’ll never forget the look on his face.”
Thankfully, Sharon and Kerry’s friends rallied around the young family.
“We had a lot of help—people rostered themselves to be there for every chemo session so there was always someone to look after the kids and someone to be with me.”
Sharon was also put in touch with Mummy’s Wish, who provided Comfort Bears for Caleb and Hudson.
“Both of the boys still sleep with their bears and each still has the same recording as I left when they first arrived: “Caleb/Hudson don’t forget that mummy loves you so much. I love you my gorgeous boy”.
“The work that Mummy’s Wish do is invaluable to women like me and donating $40 for a Cuddle Bear is a small price to pay.
“The smiles that it brings to a child’s face is priceless and so is the comfort that it brings to a woman going through cancer treatment.
“When you’re faced with something, such as a cancer diagnosis, it just means so much to know that whatever happens, your kids will always be able to hear your voice.”