The teenage years are difficult enough without living in the shadow of your beloved mum’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of your mum.
Dawn was someone who everyone thought they knew – cancer ambassador, selfie queen – but to us, the two people who really knew her, she was simply Mum.
We were just 10 and 11 when Mum was first diagnosed with cancer and given that terminal diagnosis. She was a single parent so overnight we shifted from children to carers. In what world is that right?
Through our teenage years, we wanted to be independent but we also wanted to be taken care of. Mum was the same – she wanted to be independent, she wanted to take care of us but she needed to be taken care of herself.
She was passionate about this rare disease that she was eventually diagnosed with, the one with the unpronounceable name, pseudomyxoma peritonei, or simply PMP.
As so many people are, Mum was misdiagnosed or ignored by doctors for so long and we have memories of her having test after test and hospital visit after hospital visit, trying to put a label on what was wrong with her because she knew that something was.
When she was eventually told it was PMP, like so many patients, Mum was told there wasn’t any treatment and to just go home. She wanted to take us on one last trip so booked a visit to Disneyland in Paris. Before we went, Mum took one last look on the internet and somehow found out that there was treatment for PMP being done by a team at Basingstoke Hospital. We went off to our trip with her being so pleased with having found this out. Once we were home, she immediately started to put the wheels in motion to get herself to Basingstoke.
As she had found, there was so little information on the internet. She wanted to change that. She started off sharing her story on the internet in the hope that someone would find it.
She wanted to set up a charity to help other patients as there had been so little help that she could find herself and what there was wasn’t based in the UK. Then the fundraising started.
You know, when you’re a teenager, weekends are about long lie-ins and lazy days. Not when you have a Mum like ours. We were up at stupid o’clock at car boot sales, raising funds towards this monster PMP that was taking over our lives. The kitchen always smelled of cake – she would make cake pops and cupcakes, whatever she thought we could sell at school or wherever to raise more money to get to that £5000 target to register a charity.
All this happening while she had her first operation at Basingstoke, and then a second. Both times, she was very poorly and had long stays in hospital. We were teenagers and we had to cope with our Mum going through that. We weren’t adults, we needed our space, our privacy and we lived with the selfie queen! We loved her so much, she made our hearts break every day just by looking at her. She made us laugh so much we lost our breath. What a Mum to have.
What a Mum to lose.
Love you Mum today and every day.
Kirsten and Megan
Dawn was initially diagnosed with PMP and given three months to live when aged just 30 years old. Not happy to give in and accept what she had been told, Dawn researched online and found that there were treatment options available. The founder of Pseudomyxoma Survivor, Dawn was also a Cancer Research UK Campaigns Ambassador, a Macmillan Cancer Voice and presented at events both in the UK and abroad.