Living with my mum, I get to see her almost every single day and I don't take that for granted - not ever! 

 

Whilst we both have busy lives......

 

My mum juggling her chemo cycles, regular tests, scans and oncology visits, side effects, work which she thrives on (albeit she had to completely resign in July 2019 to focus on her health), commitment to healthy well-being incorporating all kinds of exercise and eating plans, running our house so smoothly, attending to her garden that she takes enormous pride in (please note - I sweep out the garage regularly and take the bins out...lol), her endless creative projects (she is so talented), charity and community involvement that make her so happy, walking Calvie (our dog) which he holds her accountable for (although  he hasn't told her she can't throw his ball anywhere near the distance I can..lol) and  looking after me so well and always finding time for others and so many friends who mum attracts everywhere she goes with her magnetic, genuine, kind and super caring and warm big heart. 

 

Then there is my life - in Nov 2018 I completed my 5th year at University and Graduated with Law and Commerce Degrees which mum endlessly supported me to achieve - thanks mum!), the studies that were required therein which intensified around exam periods (and mum did everything to create the best possible learning environment for me, no matter how the days found her, because she is such a selfless lady and devoted mum - lucky me!).  She continues to support me with avid interest and care-taking (given I still choose to live at home.  I can often be heard saying to myself "sensible move Jake") as I have embarked on my professional career in a role as a trainee lawyer in a cbd law firm (which I am absolutely loving).  Then there is my beautiful girlfiend who mum loves like a daughter, my sports training, game commitments  (thanks for coming to all my footy matches mum....will you ever grow to enjoy watching me play cricket the way you do with football?), my own work and social activities and other interests - all of which mum has my mum has my back.

 

..........I can't recall a time where we haven't had a daily conversation that includes laughter and love!  I do know that I take every opportunity to give my mum a big smile, hug her and find out about her day because if she is happy then I am happy.

We regularly sit down and have dinner together and enjoy going out and sharing a special meal quite often too.  If mum is lucky - I will occasionally take her to Gold Class for an action movie!  We bounce ideas and thoughts off each other and we discuss lots of things and value each others opinion.  My mum is a best friend to me and I trust her implicitly and learn from her.  She has such nice values.  And yes we can have our mother and son moments and she can be a little kooky but there is nothing we can't manage together.

I truly value the unique and special relationship I have with my mum.  It is based on mutual respect and I could not feel more loved and supported and cannot thank my mum enough for everything she has done for me and continues to do, always putting me and others ahead of herself.

I am in awe of my mum's strength and resilience, her independence as a single mum and admire her many skills and aspire to make her proud of me because she deserves that because she has worked so hard to create and support so many opportunities for me.  She is the one person I can rely on for absolutely anything and she always makes everything feel okay - even when it isn't.  I have a wonderful life and mum always makes me feel like the most special person in her life.

Cancer has changed our lives and quite significantly.  I can't deny that.  If I think about the reality too much it scares me to death so I go to bed each night thankful for another day with my mum by my side and wake up every morning thankful again especially when I see my mum's big and infectious smile.  When fear tries to creep in I just  look at mum and see how she handles her life and how happy she is, inspite of her difficult challenge with cancer and the uncertainty of the reality she lives with.  She is always roaring with laughter -  believe me I hear her all the time and I just know everything will be okay.  I just have to believe that. 

She talks about having a happy heart.  She seriously does.

She talks about having an attitude of gratitude.  She does.  She amazes me.  And I think it is her secret medicine to be very honest.  Even when she doesn't have a reason to be cheery - she always seems to find one.  That doesn't mean that she doesn't cry a lot.  Oh yes...my mum is emotional.  She feels deeply about things and the world and for others.  She is learning to worry less these days and focus on only the things she can control and nurturing herself to stay well and ahead of her cancer.  Cancer is seriously ugly and scary and I keep praying that medical research and advancement will translate to a cure.  Not just for my mum but for so many that have to face this horrible disease that is very unpredictable, relentless and cruel.  

When mum told me she was going to create a website I was really pleased as I knew it would be a great vehicle for her to keep everyone who cares about her up to date as sometimes she gets really overwhelmed given she is loved so widely and because of her nature and attitude she just can't seem to resist doing too much and ends up depleting her valuable energy that she can't afford to expend frivolously because living with cancer and subjected to ongoing chemo makes her super tired.  But never too tired to do things for me (looking for cheeky grin emoji to put in here...lol).

The challenge is my mum looks so well and people cannot possibly truly understand her reality and what she manages day to day.  Cancer and chemo knock the stuffing out of her even though she does such an incredible job of making it look easy.  It is far from easy. I see it first hand and feel really sad when she gets down on herself for not keeping up with life, not being able to manage all the text messages she receives (desperately wanting to answer them all in her usual detailed way...lol), returning calls, celebratory events, catch ups with all the wonderful people in her life and so on and so forth.  Those who know her well will understand she goes into hiding when she isn't at her top form and has to rest or succumb to side effects.  She is such a giving woman and a fiercely independent woman that she will rarely ask for help and only likes to be out in the world when she can give all of herself and make others feel happy and good.  I marvel at how she manages to act and look like she doesn't have cancer when I am very aware of her day to day struggles and limitations.  She has made many compromises in her life to manage cancer but so surprisingly she is so incredibly happy and that's all that counts for me.

 

Before I started my professional career I joined mum, for 4 and a half year, for every visit to her oncologist.  I know she is in the best medical hands and I am so grateful to Dr Richard DeBoer for how he has managed mum's scenario and believed in her. Most of the time we had to go every 3 weeks (after tests) or if she was lucky he may have stretched it out to every 5-6 intermittently.  She bounced into his rooms beaming with optimism, completely disguising her anxiety as we sat tight awaiting to hear the number roll out of his mouth.  The number of her tumour markers that is.  Are they up or are they down? Every number counts  indicative of whether the current treatment is sufficient enough to keep her stable and how long will that last?  Is her liver still holding up okay?  What is her red and white blood count?  How is her immunity going? We are aware that the more time that passes, the greater the odds that the cancer will outsmart the treatments and become more resistant so it is a juggling act with focus on quality of life for  mum.  Cancer is actually very manipulative and intelligent and there is no such thing as the same rule or approach for two or more patients as we are all so individual and the make-up and behaviour of  cancer is very different.  Even with mum it is quite peculiar that whilst all the tumours on her liver are breast cancer, a couple of them have a different composition and they are the ones that are becoming the most challenging to keep in quarantine. 

At the onset of all this, I thought cancer was a death sentence but I have now learned, first hand, that cancer is NOT a death sentence and with the right care, treatments, life adjustments and attitude - it is a "way of life". I have done lots of my own research into why people get cancer and there is enormous medical evidence, backed by mum's oncologist too, confirming that stress is one of the major contributing factors/causes of breast cancer in particular so I have made it my job to pull my mum up when she is allowing stress in and it's helped me enormously too. 

I helped mum to come up with her website and I continue to encourage her to populate it and work on it throughout her journey.  She wanted something with a hashtag -  you know - because she is a contemporary mum and can't help but get across social media and current apps....lol.

We came up with Tralee because it is a place we visited in Ireland when we went on our overseas trip together and mum absolutely loved it there and ironically it fits with her name being Tracey Lee.

What about the hashtags?

#LOVEYOURMOTHER

#LOVE EACHOTHER

It is simple really - we all have a mother (or a mother figure) and a mum (one of our greatest role models and carers) deserves the greatest love and it's my message to everyone to remind them how important it is to love your mother because you never know when you may lose her. She miraculously gave us life, makes many sacrifices and loves us unconditionally. If you have a mum, like mine, you will know she is to be honoured and treasured.

Mum came up with #loveeachother which was no surprise given my mum is such a humanitarian and a strong ambassador for world peace and equality between all mankind. She loves people and believes in the power of love.  If you are her facebook friend you would see how passionate she is about the power of the human spirit and what it can accomplish.   I have watched her change the lives of strangers in seconds with love from her heart.  She does it all the time because she genuinely loves people and makes it her job to make them feel good about themselves and isn't shy about taking a keen and obvious interest specifically to find what it is she may need to boost them up. 

Mum asked me to put together this page on her website and I thought it may be appropriate to share my thoughts about mum, my own personal experience with cancer, and to include photos from our overseas trip that unravelled very quickly when mum was diagnosed.  I had the most amazing time of my life but truth is I could have gone to a Victorian country town with mum and had the same fun.  It was an adventure and experience I will never forget and will treasure for my lifetime.  Given that mum has defied the odds this far I  know we will have another travel adventure together again.  Greek Islands mum?  Well....we haven't been to Santorini yet (lol) however in January 2019 we did get the opportunity to go on a vacay to Hamilton Island in Queensland which was fun and adventure filled. Living with cancer is very challenging on many fronts and we don't have the luxury of planning ahead as we don't know what tomorrow may look like.  However, we did pull off another getaway (impromptu) together joined by family and given we never know if it could be the last - mum signs up for it all from golf buggy rallies to jet-ski races (even if she did end up on the back of mine as I navigated the seas flinging us into the skies as we crashed against waves.  Mum never came off - I had bruises for days to prove it - as her hands were almost glued to my waist) and breathes every moment of it in. 

Another challenge for mum is she is constantly living life as if "today" could literally be her last whilst balancing compromised health and capacity.  It is almost impossible to get the balance right - and it is cruel because mum has to pay a price for any energy she expends.  A normal day to most (of enjoyment) potentially means a few days in bed for mum to recover.  Reality is none of us know what today holds nor our future but being aware that you have an incurable disease and living with it and the impact of it - provides a completely different mindset and is a different ball game.  Hence my mum is always in nesting mode making sure there are no loose ends and wherever she goes she gives herself completely and immerses herself in it all.  She gets high on life.  She always has and I now see - always will. She is an energy giver, a life-force for those around her and whilst it is a gift and one she innately loves to give to others - it is taxing on her but it is her DNA and very few truly understand the volatility of this reality however slowly but surely some of her army of lovers and carers out there are starting to help her with this at the sacrifice of their own needs and wants.  The human spirit is incredible and our cancer journey teaches you so much about life and people.

Thank you for reading and visiting mum's site.   And thank you to everyone who is so wonderful and supportive and nurturing to my mum.  Family, old friends and new friends.  My friends too.  Especially those that give my mum unconditional love and support.  Kindness and Understanding.  Those that don't judge her for not being able to give back, reciprocate or respond in a way they want for their own needs.  She never wants to let anyone down and prefers to give than receive and struggles to accept - but she is learning all these things and those that are teaching her are her most valuable right now and are the ones that are literally giving her more life and a chance to buy more time whilst maintaining best possible quality of life under the circumstances as her cancer progresses and treatment options become more limited and less likely to keep her stable or work.

Thank you also to everyone who sponsored my mum and I for the 21km Peter Mac walk in October 2018 joined by family and friends.  It was an incredible event for a significant cause.  We proudly raised in excess of $100,000 with combined initiatives for Peter Mac Fundraising.  I often think about young children (who are little or still at school) who have a mum or dad with cancer and how scared and alone they must feel.  It would be so awesome if we could find a cure for this insidious disease cancer.  

As mum says "Believe in the Unbelievable" and do what we can to have an "attitude of gratitude" and #loveyourmother and #loveeachother.

Jake Erman-Keogh

© 2018 Tracey Lee Keogh & Jake Erman-Keogh

Disclosure: We have created this website purely to share our personal journey living with cancer and as motivators.  We are not a tax deductible gift recipient and funds raised through sales of caps, goods or events flows through to a chosen charity for their exclusive benefit

We acknowledge and respect the traditional custodians and owners of the land on which we live 

Maldives