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Personal cancer story

Sheree Hailes

Sheree’s mother was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer in 2015, at the age of 64. It was Stage 4, and she was given a prognosis of 6 – 12 months.

“Straight away, specialists said it was inoperable, but they recommended trying chemotherapy. The chemotherapy helped, and even though Mum was never in remission, she lived five years longer than the initial prognosis”.

After a long battle, Sheree’s mother passed away on the 16th March 2020, just two days before the state went into lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are waiting for the right time to have a funeral to remember Mum”.

Sheree cared and supported her mother through the ups and downs of her cancer journey.  

“I told Mum that no matter how hard things get, I want to be there for her, and I'm so glad that I was able to care for her because our relationship changed in that time, and it taught me to be a better mother to my son”. 

“Mum never really had a lot of physical symptoms, but it was a really challenging time for her mentally. She started having terrible anxiety, panic attacks, and a loss of identity, and just didn't want to leave the house, despite having previously been an extrovert”. 

“I spent hours researching therapies to help Mum get through her mental health struggles – CBT therapy, group therapy and mindfulness, and I admire how she gave any suggestion a go”.

“It was hard on me too because I was pregnant at the time, and I wanted to help, but there was only so much I could do as I’m not a mental health professional”.

”It took me a really long time to convince Mum to talk to someone. People think they need to pretend everything is ok, especially that older generation, and I want people to know that they don’t need to pretend”.

“People see the physical side-effects of cancer, but not often the mental side". 

Sheree’s mother found the support group at Ringwood Local Hospital to be of great comfort, and Sheree also found joining a carers support group to be helpful in connecting with others who were able to empathise. 

“People don't often know what resources are available for mental health support for cancer patients and carers, and making connections with people in a similar situation has just been an incredible form of support”.

“It has really helped me come to terms with the fact that there is just so much that you can't control”.

Sheree is conscious of the ongoing challenges for cancer patients during COVID-19. 

“For cancer patients, there are still risks, there is still fear, and more than ever, there is still that feeling of being isolated”. 

Read more stories about people's personal experiences with cancer