My name is Leigh and this is my story.
I am 17 years old. I have wonderful parents Andrew and Tracey (Tracey is an Outreach Ambassador for Pink Hope), a great sister Erin who is 28 and I am soon to be an uncle and by the way we are a high risk family. Mum had four aunties die of breast cancer before they were 50 years of age and mum is fighting to her last breath as she herself has terminal breast cancer. Mum doesn’t carry the BRCA gene fault but she does carry four mutated genes which no one knows much about so we are living in limbo.
Pink Hope became part of my life when mum became part of this wonderful family and I know that I can call upon them at any time. I have found out that being a male does not exclude you from getting breast cancer or carrying gene mutations so I am making it my mission to get the men out there to know their bodies and to talk to their families about their medical history – when I turn 18 I am going to get tested for the gene mutations so I know for myself and my future wife.
I want to give you an insight into my life as a teenager living with someone they love having terminal breast cancer, so here goes.
This is going to sound different, but it is normal life for me now. Mum was diagnosed when I was starting Year 7, so for the last five years, doctors’ appointments, chemo days, operations, check-ups, support group meetings, charity events, fun runs, and women who loved to feed me food have become the norm.
At first it was really hard, I was 12, starting High School and my Mum was just diagnosed with a disease that is life threatening. It was hard, but I wasn’t worried. I had, and thankfully still do, a good group of mates around me who are there whenever I need. I guess that is what has made this part of our journey a little easier. I did well in school until halfway through Year 9, I blamed the change in math teachers, but in reality it was when Mum got really sick. I would get home and look after her, so I didn’t get much homework done, not like I was doing it anyway! So from then on school became an escape. I went to school just so I could see my mates and forget about everything to do with cancer.
Changing schools was a big thing for me, I got to go somewhere where no one knew Mum had cancer, and I wouldn’t get put in cotton wool because of my family. That didn’t last long, it was pretty obvious when they saw Mum that she was sick. But they were really good about it, they never said one bad thing about her and I respect that a lot.
As a teenager all you want to do is go out every weekend with your mates and have a good time, which could be partying, skating or whatever. For me it was another escape. But there came the time when Mum got even worse and I had to stay home most weekends, this drained me. I hardly got to see my friends, especially when I changed schools last year, I promised myself to see my friends as much as possible, but in reality that couldn’t happen. I don’t blame Mum for that, not for one second, I blame bloody cancer.
I also blame this cancer for all the pain it puts Mum through. I can’t count the times I have had to carry Mum to bed, help her get dressed, get her on or off the toilet (sorry Mum), pick her up off the floor, run and grab a sick bowl or the nights where she cries out in pain and I just can’t sleep. I can’t sleep knowing the pain she is in.
So with all my experience with this awful disease, the hardest thing about being a teenager and having a mother with this disease is keeping up with school, having a social life and being a carer so please check your boobies (as Mum says) and know your family history as I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this.
Thank you Pink Hope for coming into our lives and for giving me this opportunity.
So there you have it my life as a teenager living with my Mum. Don’t get me wrong I love Mum so much and I am honoured and proud to call her my Mum as she always puts other people before herself and would do anything for anyone.