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Personal cancer story

Jen O'Donnell

Because of cancer, my children never met my mother and have little recollection of their grandfather. That's not what I want for future generations of my family. So I'm leaving a bequest to Cancer Council in my will to help beat cancer.

Jen O'Donnell

I'm one in a large family of nine. The news of mum's cancer diagnosis knocked us all for six. We didn't realise until this point, when Mum seemed most vulnerable, exactly how strong she was. She'd always made it look as though Dad was the one calling the shots and keeping order in our family life.

Mum was so stoic during her cancer journey. Not thinking of herself, she would fret about who was looking after Dad, or who was organising the Christmas gifts for the grandkids. But we glimpsed other emotions in her – fear, determination and hope – amidst the exhaustion of her treatment.

Mum's cancer journey changed all of us forever. I was 19 when she passed away. Now, more than 20 years later, there have been so many advances in the cancer landscape – not only in research, but also in support for patients and carers. But more improvements are still needed.

I first made my will in 2008. It was after dad had died, also from cancer. I had the urgent realisation that my husband and I needed to get our affairs in order. I remember the solicitor asking if I wanted to leave a gift to a charity in my will. The question took me aback. It wasn't something I had considered. My response was a ‘no’; my priority was to look after the kids.

I didn't give much more thought to my will until 2014, when I started working at Cancer Council with the bequest team. After meeting some of the many dedicated people connected with Cancer Council who have made a bequest to the organisation in their will, I decided I too wanted to invest in future funding to beat cancer.

So this year I updated my will and have included a residual gift to Cancer Council. This way, my gift will remain up to date with any change in my future circumstances – and I know that my family will not feel neglected in any way. In fact, they have been included in my decision. It is important to me that my children are fully aware of why I have made this gift, and the historical and emotional importance it has to me.

This will probably be the largest donation that I will ever make. I have trust and confidence that it is going to make a difference to help beat cancer.

If you would like to speak to someone about cancer and the support available, please call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for the cost of a local call anywhere in Australia. Cancer Council also provides online support through the Online Cancer Community, where you can ask questions and participate in groups, forums and blogs.

We are always looking for people who have been affected by cancer, whether personally or through a relative, to become media volunteers and share their story in Cancer Council communications and the media.

Real life stories may encourage people to get any symptoms checked out with their GP or go for the screening they'd been putting off, can provide hope and support to people who may be going through a difficult time and can highlight the importance of early detection and symptoms to look out for.

Your stories help us engage with the public and may encourage people to make a donation or take part in one of our fundraising events, therefore supporting our work to beat cancer every day, in every way, and save more lives.

Read more stories about people's personal experiences with cancer