Tough conversations for mum
Given her family history, a Palmerston North woman knew it was only a matter of time before her grim fears were confirmed.
After years of testing the day of reckoning arrived in August 2017. Cheralyn Sorrell had breast cancer.
It’s the same disease her mother and aunt had suffered through.
It was weird, Sorrell said. A wave of calm washed over her once she finally knew.
Walking along a beach with her husband after meeting with the doctor, she knew she was ready to tackle the growth threatening to steal her from her family.
‘‘Waiting is by far worse than the diagnosis, the stress of it all. I thought I was having heart attacks.
‘‘I thought I’d be stressed out and thinking I’m going to die. It’s scary, it is – but if you can talk about it and plan for it then it’s easier.’’
However, as Sorrell endured operation after operation, slowly, she began to feel the toll her illness was taking on her daughter Amy and son Matt.
Cooking their meals, helping with homework, listing to them, helping with friendship issues, it was all but lost as she struggled to fight off the cancer.
‘‘I was drugged up to the eyeballs,’’ Sorrell said. ‘‘I’ve got a two-year gap where I’ve missed out on so many things.
‘‘I wasn’t able to be the mum or the wife. I felt like they became my carers. I should be the mummy and look after everybody.’’
But everyone needed help sometimes, she said. Others who had experienced breast cancer became her friends as they navigated treatments. While some survived, others did not.
‘‘I’ve had friends that [the cancer’s] come back for. It’s not fair. Why them and not me? They call it survivors’ guilt.’’
Sorrell, 48, has been in remission since October 2018, after undergoing a doublemastectomy and hysterectomy.
Every six months she is checked for the disease, bringing back the same stresses she had before her diagnosis.
‘‘You are constantly on hyper alert,’’ she said. ‘‘You do everything you can to keep it at bay, but it can still come back.’’
The extent to which the disease has plagued her mother and father’s sides of the family has also sparked concerns for Amy, 18, and Matt, 14.
‘‘We did have a hard conversation. I’m basically saying there’s a good chance you’re going to get breast cancer. It’s a hard thing to say.
‘‘[Amy] might want children, so what does that look like? She’s got decisions to make, but breast cancer isn’t just a girl problem, it’s also a boy problem.’’
Now, Sorrell wants to give back to the people and support agencies who gave her so much by throwing her first Pink Ribbon Breakfast.
‘‘I just want the support to continue for my daughter and my son and future generations. I want that future for men and women.’’
Sorrell, along with 864 others, have raised more than $51,000 towards breast cancer research already this year. Last year $1.9 million was raised through the breakfasts.
Donations can be made at the Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand’s website.
‘‘You do everything you can to keep it at bay, but it can still come back.’’
Cheralyn Sorrell is holding a Pink Ribbon breakfast for those who helped her beat breast cancer.