Under the Jacaranda tree: One family's journey with cancer

In 2015 my wife Teresa lost her decade long struggle with Cancer. My apologies for the drama from the get go but there really is no other way to begin to tell this story. So here it goes…

Illness can be part of life’s journey.  
In this case, cancer was and still is a significant part of my family’s journey.
As a family we have all been on the journey, experiencing the same milestones during Teresa’s illness but we’ve all been on a slightly different ride. We did not always reach the same points at the same time nor did we feel the same things and that is as true now as it was during Teresa’s life.
With all the things that must happen during an illness we found so much in life to celebrate as a family even though the going got really tough sometimes.
Along the journey we met some amazing people.
We met people who were at various stages of their journey, people who supported us and people who needed support.
Engaging with so many people along our journey brought us emotional experiences as a family. Many of those experience were hard to have but many were joyous and all were ultimately uplifting. 
One of the most uplifting experiences during Teresa’s illness was engaging with the McGrath Foundation. Our journey with the McGrath Foundation roughly spans the whole decade of Teresa’s illness as the wonderful initiative to establish a support service as a result of Jane McGrath’s illness was born roughly when Teresa was first diagnosed with Cancer.
Teresa, like many people I imagine, had great admiration for Jane McGrath in her brave and very public struggle with Cancer. After Teresa’s diagnosis the admiration grew to include inspiration. 
Jane’s passing in 2008 really upset Teresa but at the time we did not realise the incredible legacy Jane McGrath would leave behind for Teresa and so many others.
Teresa with daughter
The first time we came directly into contact with the work of the McGrath Foundation was in 2012 when Teresa’s cancer was re-diagnosed and had spread. The McGrath Foundation allocated Teresa a breast care nurse which was invaluable especially with all the confusing procedures and complex information to deal with. Just to have someone explain what was happening in plain language was so helpful -  her nurse provided immediate comfort to us.

Our McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurse, Cheryl, is an incredible person. Cheryl provided so much support emotionally to our family than can never be adequately re-counted.

During Teresa’s treatment we also got involved with a number of the McGrath Foundation social activities. Those activities provided great comfort to us and I believe our involvement provided great comfort to other cancer patients and their families.

I was totally blown away when I received a phone call from Cheryl around Christmas telling me that Bupa and the McGrath Foundation wanted to invite me and the kids to fly to Sydney to watch the cricket and also take part in the activities happening at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for Jane McGrath Day.

This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Fly to Sydney, be looked after, have “access all areas” to the SCG, meet heroes, watch Test cricket - excitement plus… and only a couple of snags I thought!

Christmas holidays were already booked; could I grab a few more days to make this happen? 

What about the kids? Would they be in it? Remember the bit earlier about same milestones different roads? Well I did, and I was really concerned that the whole thing would be too raw and exposing for us.

Final snag, how do I negotiate for the granddaughter that Teresa never thought she would see, but did, to be in this with us?

Let’s tick ‘em off one by one eh?

Extra holidays - yes – a big thank you to my employer there.

Kids in – yes – a few tears and lots of chat but they were in.

Granddaughter – yes – a brilliant gift from Bupa to my family to bring us all to Sydney for the event.

OK all sorted, now for the living the dream bit. 
Teresa with granddaughter
You know what, the real living the dream is in reality nothing to do with the stuff I said earlier. Don’t get me wrong the celebrity meet and greet is brilliant, the schmoozing with players and commentators is really great and the hospitality fabulous but it isn’t the memory that really lasts from the adventure.

But I can share with you that when we were standing out on the SCG with thousands cheering us on, I didn’t spare one though about the schmoozing or hanging out with celebrities. Instead I focused on what the McGrath Foundation and Bupa had actually given my family…  

One more chance to have a milestone in life shared at the same moment. One more chance to get together and celebrate a life. One more chance to bring our healing together. One more chance to share the kindness with others. Unfurling the Jane McGrath banner on the SCG with other incredible people whose lives have also been touched by Cancer was inspirational and to have done that with my family was a gift.

In fact, it was actually Teresa’s dying wish, as I found out later from our McGrath Breast Care Nurse Cheryl.

Experiencing this journey has provided incredible insights. I know things I could not have known without taking this path. Sometimes I don’t know how to help, or even if I should help, but I do know if anyone is on their own journey along a similar path and wants to chat or share their own experiences, I will listen in the hope I could help.
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