Family’s heartbreak ends with beautiful surprise
AS MELISSA "Lou Lou" Hicks welcomed the arrival of her two beautiful granddaughters this leap year, she couldn't help but think her beloved mother had a "helping hand" in it.
After a devastating year, the birth of Harlow and Azariah to Mrs Hicks' daughters Taylah and Maddison, had been a welcome miracle.
It had been just three months since her mother, Michelle "Shelly" Bates, had passed away on Mrs Hicks' birthday, after a long battle with bowel cancer.
"This year has been a long and hard one," Mrs Hicks said.
"From November 2018 when I first got diagnosed with breast cancer through to December 2018 when mum first got diagnosed.
"We went through all our surgeries and treatments and mum started going down hill in June last year and that's when she sort of got told that she was terminal.
"I was ending my chemotherapy and was ready to start radiation in July."
In August, the pair, who Mrs Hicks said did everything together and were as close as best friends, went on holiday before she became too ill.
"After that it was sort of a downward spiral," Mrs Hicks said.
"She was there when I finished my radiation on the last treatment but she didn't get to find out that I was in remission.
"I found that out two weeks after she passed away on my birthday, November 12.
"That was harder than being diagnosed with cancer, than chemotherapy.
"It was the hardest time of my life."
One solace that Mrs Hicks had during the last few weeks of her mother's life was the announcement of the genders of her eldest and middle daughters' unborn babies.
"It was another scare for my mum knowing she wouldn't be around to see them but she found out what my daughters were having before she passed and she was the only one who knew," Mrs Hicks said.
When her mother passed, Mrs Hicks suffered from depression, and although she still struggles with the loss, she said the support from her family has helped her get through.
"I'm just lucky I've got my family - my kids, my husband (who was beside me the whole time), my nanna, my aunties," she said.
"My nanna, Betty Austin, lived here for 12 months during the whole time and was fighting it with us, side-by-side.
"A month before mum passed away, nanna was by her side every day and she would go to my treatments with me when mum got too sick to come.
"My mum never wanted to be alone so we all took turns staying with her 24 hours a day."
Now with two new "amazing" leap year grandbabies, Mrs Hicks said her family was tighter than ever, with the tragic past year only bringing them closer together.
"I've still got more upcoming surgeries and I've been tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene because my cancer was hereditary, not hormonal," she said.
"If that comes up positive, it increases my current risk (50 per cent) of getting cancer again.
"It's a waiting game but my family is getting me through, especially my three daughters.
"They are struggling with me because if it comes back positive, they have to be tested to see whether they've got the gene as well.
"We're all in it together."
For those going through similar tough times, Mrs Hicks had some sound words of wisdom.
"Try not to think the worst and try to look outside the bubble of a future or what time you do have left," she said.
"Try and succeed in whatever you want to do, like my mum who had a bucket list to do - Christmas, Easter and her birthday - which we all celebrated together in hospital with her.
"Try not to push anyone away, even if you don't want to hurt them."
The words of her mother still ring in Mrs Hicks' ear: "I love you to the moon and back."
It's a message of affection and kindness that she said was dearly needed throughout the world.