Personal cancer story
My mum rather liked a nice cuppa.
She was a tea-in-the-morning type, like me. And she used to retire at night with a cup of black tea, always in a fine bone china cup and saucer, always with a slice of lemon. She'd sip on it as she sat up in bed reading her latest favourite book.
During the day, however, it was coffee – good coffee from good cafés. Like me, she ordered a soy latte every time.
Mum was only 55 when she was diagnosed with a tumour in her kidney. She underwent surgery to remove the kidney, and they gave her the all clear. She was in remission for five years. But not long after her 60th birthday, she started to feel nauseous all the time and was experiencing night sweats.
A scan revealed that the cancer had returned to her liver – a renal cell carcinoma. She had surgery again, and then radiation therapy. I was heavily pregnant at the time and was advised to stay away while she was radioactive.
My mum didn't really talk about dying, but she did start doing the sort of things you do when you know time isn't on your side: she went to Paris, took a seaplane ride and threw a party with her friends and family in her hometown. Her doctors were never able to tell us how long she had, and no-one gave us the worst case scenario until right at the end when it was obvious to us all. My mum was 61 when she died, quietly in hospital, in the early hours of the morning after we'd all slipped out to get some rest.
She left behind seven grandbabies, three of them – one from each daughter – born in the year after her diagnosis.
I never thought I'd be the fundraiser type. I read stories of people who, through illness, accident and loss, are inspired and energised to start foundations, run marathons, climb mountains for a cause. It takes a special kind of person.
But having some friends over for morning tea? That's easy. That I can do.
I never thought I'd be the fundraiser type. I read stories of people who, through illness, accident and loss, are inspired and energised to start foundations, run marathons, climb mountains for a cause. It takes a special kind of person."
Just over a year ago, my little family and I moved out of the city for a new life in a rural village. As keen as I was to put on my floral apron and start rolling out scones in my lovely country kitchen, the reality of my situation then was that I knew about three people who I could invite over. We wouldn't have raised much money.
But I had a blog (http://www.typicallyred.blogspot.com.au), and I ‘knew’ lots of people in that virtual space who'd willingly ‘pop in’ for some tea and a slice of cake (or at least a recipe). So I held my Biggest Morning Tea online. Unlike in the real world, this morning tea went on for an entire week. And I had guests showing up not only from all over the country, but as far afield as Singapore, England and Canada. My old Sydney friends came to the party with generous donations, and people I'd never met in real life, and still haven't, also parted with their hard-earned cash.
Every day there was something sweet to eat, with an accompanying recipe. I showed off my collection of vintage tea sets, some that used to belong to my granny. I gathered together some lovely bits and pieces to give away as lucky door prizes to show my appreciation. And when it was all said and done, and the last teacup had been polished and put back in the cabinet, we'd raised over $1,000 for a mighty good cause.
So what did I learn from hosting my virtual Biggest Morning Tea? That no matter the context, people enjoy a celebration. That if you're enthusiastic enough, they'll come along for the ride. That parting with $10 or $20 or $100 in honour of my mum, or anyone's mum, is heart-filling, not wallet-draining.
And that just like my mum, people rather like a nice cuppa.
Read more stories about people's personal experiences with cancer