When you’re a young mum with cancer
By Mim Jenkinson at Love from Mim
When I turned 37 years old in 2015, it was epic. A truly life-changing experience.
It wasn’t the celebration or the gathering of friends and family. None of that actually happened.
You see, in the week of my 37th birthday I was diagnosed with cancer. Triple Negative breast cancer – a particularly fast-growing and aggressive kind. No, I hadn’t heard of it before either. See, I told you it was epic.
During my two pregnancies, the medical professional had labelled me a “mature mother” because I was over the age of 30. How rude. Overnight, that same profession now referred to me as a “young mum with cancer”.
And I felt young, far too young. I mean, wasn’t breast cancer something our older female family members were at risk of? Our mothers, aunts and grandmothers?
Why me? What had I done to cause it? And oh my word, what did this mean for my daughter? Or my son. Confusion, denial and guilt flooded my mind.
The first 24 hours were a haze of shock and tears for my husband and I. We had just relocated to a new city with no family support nearby and I was only two weeks into a new job.
My baby was six months old and my daughter three. Our family was complete and we had the whole world ahead of us: a new city, a new life and so much to look forward to.
And then, this.
What followed was eight months of gruelling treatment including a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. Our lives turned upside down but it was in that time that I found strength. I discovered the strength not only to get through treatment and to survive but also the strength of my marriage.
My husband was my rock and at many times during treatment he became the sole provider, organiser and leader of our family. We had heard that 50% of relationships break up during a cancer diagnosis – I can’t even remember where I heard that but I can absolutely imagine the possibility of that. We decided we would not be part of that statistic.
We were tested more than I ever thought possible and yet he continued to keep us together. To keep me together.
To this day, 20 months on from that diagnosis, a small part of me still feels like they must have got it wrong. Never in a million did I expect to get cancer.
My life has changed drastically since that day I was diagnosed. I ploughed my strength into getting through treatment and being here for my family for as long as I possibly can. On the days when I had no strength, my husband kept me going.
The new city we found ourselves in quickly turned into the supportive village we truly needed. Friendly and supportive faces appeared around every corner: in my medical team, my employer, even strangers.
I poured my heart and soul into finding ways to earn an income from home, while I was undergoing treatment. On the days I could work, I worked.
Then, at my 12 month follow up appointment, I was told I had the all clear. One year on from my diagnosis, I had survived.
You can imagine my utmost fear when I first described myself as a survivor. In saying out loud that I have survived cancer. I mean, we’re only survivors of anything until, well, we’re not.
I choose to call myself a survivor because that is what I am. I am currently surviving and I intend to celebrate that every day that I can.
My relationship with my husband has never been stronger and the support I have from my family and friends has blown me away.
In a few months’ time, when I turn 39, I intend to celebrate epically and for all of the right reasons this time.
Whether you call me a young mum with cancer or a mature mother, I don’t mind. I’m here and I’m surviving and feel so grateful to be here with my family.
Mim has released an eBook, My Friend has Cancer, to help anyone who finds themselves in the position of needing to support a loved one through cancer. $5 from the sale of every book will be donated to the Cancer Council NSW. You can find out more about the book and purchase here.
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