I don’t remember the first time my brother went to hospital, eventually the eight to ten multi-night visits per year all feel like one long visit. But I do remember the day my mum got sick.
It was October, and my grandfather was driving me home. We pulled up outside our house and I walked across the big patio we had out the front of our home. I knew something was off the minute I walked through the door. My mum was sitting on the big, white, kind of lumpy couch, with my Nana sitting next to her.
I don’t remember who said it first, but the word cancer soon flooded my brain and my world came crashing down. I was very used to providing care for my brother, his Encephalitis, Epilepsy, Asthma, and poor immune system was second nature to me. But as a 14-year-old, my mum having cancer was not.
The next twelve months were filled with hair loss, scarves, surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and sleepless nights. I learnt a lot throughout this time about the type of person that I was and that I could be. I grew up a lot, and the priorities I had in life changed. Family came absolutely pivotal, I wanted to be with my family all the time, and I had nightmares about losing my mum and how we would cope without her. I learnt how to cook, clean and how to motivate myself to do my homework on my own.
My mum grew very sick from the chemotherapy. Rather than having the treatment as an outpatient – in and out in one day – she would stay in hospital for two nights per month.
Our home was broken into during her second round of treatment. My brother and I were staying with our grandparents and my parents were at the hospital. Dad arrived home very late to find many of our treasured possessions stolen, windows broken, and valuables trashed.We are incredibly lucky to be part of a close-knit family and community and that night, well after midnight, my uncle and some family friends helped dad put the house back together before the rest of us got home.
We no longer take these things for granted. We use the wine glasses rather than saving them for special occasions, and we keep close the things most important to us, our friends and family.
My mum is now eleven years in remission from Breast Cancer. Whilst that time was trying, what I do remember was the sense of support and community that I felt. She has been left with a range of chronic health conditions, bone density injections and coeliac diagnoses, and regular check-ups are now more common than not in our household.
Whilst mum was sick, we constantly had a stocked fridge and freezer, friends and their parents picked my brother and I up from school, and our loved ones worked tirelessly to keep life as normal as possible for us.
This time of year, National Carers Awareness Day, is a reminder that as a young person, and as a Young Carer, I belong to the most beautiful community. One that picks each other up and supports each other individually. One that still has a long way to go to provide all-encompassing support for Young Carers, but one that is definitely on its way.
Madeleine Buchner OAM