Tough con­ver­sa­tions for mum

Manawatu Standard - - Front Page - Max­ine Ja­cobs max­ine.ja­cobs@stuff.co.nz

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

PHO­TOS: DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Cher­a­lyn Sor­rell is hold­ing a Pink Rib­bon break­fast for those who helped her beat breast cancer.

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