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Emma McGraffin

Cancer as we all agree is a massive life changing disease and for the most part when one of us does get Cancer we have a large tight knit family group around us to support us... But... What if you were a SINGLE MOM, now your not only the bread winner but you have your child and their future to worry about...

This is what Emma McGraffin our third Brave and Beautiful Ambassador and this is her story. In November 2006, my gynaecologist discovered that I had cysts on my ovaries.

There seemed to be no reason for concern so, even after two further check-ups, I was told not to worry. 2 months later... I was experiencing extremely bad stomach cramps and a heavy menstrual cycle that continued for longer than expected. After collapsing at work, I felt that something was wrong, so decided to go back to the gynaecologist who then recommended a full scan. The results of the scan showed that the cyst had grown enormously so I was rushed into theatre to have it removed.

On the morning of the operation, I was petrified and was so grateful that my mom... my ROCK, was there every step of the way. The operation took one and a half hours longer than expected... leaving my mum a nervous wreck by the time I came out of surgery. The outcome, that no-one expected, was HORRIFYING!...

The tumor was 33cm long with HAIR and CALCIUM... it was malignant and had metastasized (spread) to my lungs and my stomach As I sat waiting in my bed for the doctor, my son (Joshua) and my Mom were waiting with me.

The doctor entered and, without any tact, said, "I'm sorry to tell you that the diagnosis was an ovarian germ cell, with stage 4 lung and stage 4 stomach cancer". I honestly didn’t know where to look or what to say until, my son, Joshua (who was 10 yrs old) turned round to me and said, "What's cancer mum?" I just looked at him and said, "Don’t worry, it's ok! My boyfriend (now my fiancé) who was away at the time, rushed home to be with us. He and my mom rallied round to support me.

As a single mother with a young son, I could not have asked for a better people in my corner, to help me fight this battle. She was at every doctors appointment and every oncology appointment, taking in all the medical jargon and helping me make sense of it all. Knowing how serious this was and that my life was at stake... I was not afraid for MYSELF!

My fear was...

“How would my mom and Joshua cope without me”... THAT is what MOTIVATED me to SURVIVE!

I started a Chemo treatment program... 5 hours of chemo, 5 days a week! It took tremendous strain on my body, creating these weird feelings of drug induced highs and lows which required additional drugs to counteract.

As I was the manager of a restaurant, and the breadwinner... I did not have the luxury of not working during my treatment. However, I believe that being busy and having to work, kept me sane, and helped me cope when it really got tough.

The support I received from my amazing Boss and fellow workers was incredible,... so on days when I was green with nausea and vomiting my heart out, they covered my shifts and sent me home without a worry... I am so grateful to Jackie and Nickos Itopoulos and the Gang... Words cannot express what it meant to me!

I dealt with the loosing of my hair with a sense of humour! When my long blonde locks started falling out in bunches,... I looked in the mirror one day and saw Schmeagle from Lord of the Rings staring back at me, so.. I cupped a bunch of hair in my hand and walked out to my family calling “My PRECIOUS”...

They were a little freaked out but I thought it was hilarious!... My mum didn’t see the funny side to that at all!

What affected me the most emotionally was that Joshua took it very badly when I lost ALL my hair. He told me to... "GO AWAY because I wasn’t his mum". I was hurt and really did not know how to deal with that. There were many things that I had to adjust to and I will never forget, sitting in the sun one day (not knowing that I shouldn't) as my skin became translucent from all the chemo.

Going out and having a few too many drinks is also a NO! NO! when on Chemo as I had the biggest hangover the following day...but it was such FUN at the time! Another incident in the Restaurant left me chuckling...

A customer walked in to work one day and on seeing me wearing my bandanna inquired as to whether it was "Pirate day" at the Restaurant...... I could not bring myself to say that it was, but politely informed him that I had Cancer. The moment turned exceptionally awkward and silent. I would have loved to say ”Please don’t be uncomfortable…you do not need to feel guilty about NOT having Cancer just because I DO”... I just wanted to be treated normally!

Another moment that left me stunned was when a women, whom I did not know, walked up to me, touched my breast and said ”Be Strong”... Clearly she assumed I had breast cancer, but I was not about to inform her that I had ovarian for fear of her feeling the need to touch me elsewhere.

A moment I found very difficult to deal with, during my treatment, was when I lost control of my bowls while walking up the stairs in front of Joshua... Once again, it was not my own discomfort that concerned me, but the fact that I did not want him to witness this. I immediately shouted to my mom to take Joshua away.

He was affected in so many ways by this experience but I feel that it has made him stronger as a young man and he is so protective of me. I had the most amazing support system in my fiancé (Adrian), my mum, son and brother who all mean the world to me.

One of my proudest moments was when Joshua chose to do a school oral on my Cancer and told his teacher and classmates about the experience he had had... learning about cancer, how it affects your family's lives and showed them the pictures he had taken of me and himself while I was having treatment at the oncology unit... apparently he had his teacher in tears. I am approaching my 5th year since the cancer and I must admit that I live with a fear of having check-ups or visits to a gynaecologist, in case I am told that the cancer is back.

I lost my dad in November 2012 to cancer and it was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced having been there myself. It is frightening to loose somebody to something you cannot control and I do not want my family to experience that.

So now... I have a renewed optimism and appreciation for my life... have a wonderful family who love and support me... and a son who is now 15... of whom I am so PROUD!

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