FOUR years ago our family appeared to be the exception to the rule.
With the exception of the odd sun spot, the dreaded "C" had not found its way into our lives.
That changed in 2009. You always recall where you were when disaster strikes.
The death of Princess Diana, the terrorist attacks of September 11 - and when your mother tells you she's been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Mum (Maurine Allport) was hardly a stranger to health issues. In fact, it was those same health issues which had masked the cancer, delaying a diagnosis.
Despite the cancer having spread beyond the ovaries, both mum and our family were optimistic.
There was the usual cutting the cancer out, nuking the cancer and waiting. And, after a time, the outlook was relatively bright.
However, in early 2010 the cancer made a vicious return.
Mum was admitted for an emergency procedure to remove three large tumours from her bowel.
Fortunately, the surgeon knew the family and went ahead with the operation - given how advanced the cancer had become, he confessed the usual procedure would have been to abandon the operation and let nature takes its rapid course.
Nevertheless, she was not expected to make it home from hospital. That prognosis extended to weeks and then months.
The doctors were amazed. They could not fathom how mum survived such a massive operation and such extensive cancer, let alone walk out of hospital several weeks later and, ultimately, live for another 18 months.
What they did not know is how notoriously determined and stubborn she could be - apparently a family trait.
However, at Christmas last year it was clear the cancer was back again, and by Australia Day mum's condition was quickly deteriorating and the pain escalating.
It was a strange tug of war to be caught in - wanting relief for a loved one who was so clearly suffering, but not wanting to let them go.
She went back to hospital and from there to hospice, and on February 24 mum passed away.
Ironically, February is also Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.
Unfortunately, this story is not an unusual one.
But it can be one which is told less and less thanks to organisations such as Cancer Council Queensland.
I've always considered being part of their annual Relay for Life fundraiser.
Not surprisingly, the timing seemed perfect this year.
Mind you, despite the fact that I am 41 mum would shake her head at my raising money by walking around an oval in the middle of the night.
Her advice would be to "make sure and rug up - you'll need wool socks and a singlet". Given recent temperatures, I'll be taking that advice.
While Relay for Life has already been in Rockhampton, raising more than $270,000, the Gladstone event is on this weekend so if you haven't already supported the cause here is your opportunity to do so.
What a great opportunity to celebrate the lives of those who have been lost to cancer and those who have survived, and create hope for those who are still yet to face it.
What: Gladstone Relay for Life
When: July 28
Where: Chanel College
To donate go to www.relayforlife.org.au/Donate.aspx or direct a cheque to Cancer Council Queensland.
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