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Nadine’s Story

3 min read 15 November 2023

When Nadine was 47, she began noticing small, pea-size lumps appearing on her body. Frozen by fear, she tried to ignore them, and put off having them checked – for weeks.

When she finally went to her doctor, extensive testing confirmed her worst fears. Nadine had stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma that had spread from her blood into her bone marrow.

Immediately, her thoughts went to her young children, Hannah and Seb, who were just 9 and 12 years old at the time.

“My first thought wasn’t about me. I just remember thinking, ‘Oh my God… my kids.” Nadine shared.

Nadine family photoNadine and her family before her diagnosis

Telling your kids you have cancer

Nadine was quickly transferred to Peter Mac to begin aggressive chemotherapy to try and save her life. The weeks and months of treatment that were to follow were a whirlwind. But her focus was on how to best support her young children while she underwent treatment.

Like many parents diagnosed with cancer, Nadine anxiously wondered about how she would explain her diagnosis and what it would mean to her kids.

How could she prepare them for what they would see her go through? What kind of impact would this experience have on their lives?

“How do I tell the kids in a way that’s childproof and sensitive?”, shared Nadine.

There was no easy answer.

Nadine couldn’t even say the word “cancer” out loud, but she was resolved to find a way to explain her cancer to her children. She recalls:

“I realised that I had to sit Seb and Hannah down. I remember telling them very carefully: ‘Mum has a few things going on so you’ll see me go in and out of hospital for a while. You’ll also see me get quite sick. But I have to get really sick to get better.’

And I remember my son asked me just one question: ‘Mum, will you die?’ Bless him. I said, ‘No’. And then the journey commenced.”

Nadine losing hair

Treatment at Peter Mac

Nadine would go on to have six months of aggressive chemotherapy to treat her cancer. During treatment, she lost all her strength and would struggle for breath on even short walks. Most painfully, she struggled to care for her children. She shares:

“When I was sick, I tried not to show it. I played the cancer right down, because my children think I'm superwoman, and that I still do everything. But I was so tired. In the very early days of my cancer I could do nothing.

If I made the bed, I didn't even have the strength to lift my arms up to shake the doona. If I walked the kids to school, I’d be left drained afterwards. I couldn't do anything about it.

I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. It was a side effect of my treatment. And that really threw me. I couldn't cry like normal. I still can't and I find that really hard.”

But as difficult as it was, Nadine’s treatment was a success and her cancer is now in remission.

Nadine with her kids minNadine now with her kids, Seb and Hannah

Today, Nadine is more than three years into remission, and she remains grateful to the team at Peter Mac who were there to support her every step of the way.

“My first day was overwhelming. It was very hard to deal with. But the care, the nurses, the facilities, even the tea ladies that come around … it was almost like you were sitting in your own lounge room, knowing that everything was under control,” says Nadine.

“It was the intricate patient one-on-one emotional care with Peter Mac that helped me cope. I was always reassured, there was always a friendly face, you could ring anyone if ever you needed to. It's not nine-to-five hospital. It's like a home.”

How you can help mums like Nadine

Doctors tell Nadine that the longer she’s in remission, the better. But she knows her cancer could return. She recalls being told that very clearly.

“When I finished treatment and asked the doctors if I was cured, they said no – it’s just remission.

“That’s my big ball and chain – that I’m not cured. That’s what I carry around now. Every ache and pain I go straight to fear. To the thought that it’s my cancer coming back.”

Without adequate funding into research finding more cancer cures, Nadine will continue to live with the constant worry and fear of her cancer returning. She’ll live with the fear of again telling her kids she’ll have to get sick to get better – or worse, that there are no options left.

But you can help change that.

Donate today to accelerate cancer research at Peter Mac and help discover cures for people like Nadine.


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