Flashback to 2006.
I was 17 years old and in my final year of school. I had always been a hard worker and had promised myself at the beginning of the year that I would work as hard as I possibly could. That way, when my final results came out, I would know that I had given it my best shot.
My studies came first. Before parties. Before friends and even before sport. It was intense focus.
Then, the night before my Trial exams started, mum and dad called me into their bedroom for a chat.
I remember being a bit grumpy and saying ‘I caaaaaaaaan’t. I have to study.’ But eventually, I relented and went in and lay down in between mum and dad.
Then everything changed. Mum held my hand, brushed my hair off my forehead and said ‘Mary, I have breast cancer’.
My breath was immediately taken away. My mum? My selfless, perfect mum. How could this have happened. It wasn’t fair. And then I remember crying as I held my mum’s hand.
The rest of the year became a flurry of exams, radiation, chemotherapy, looking after mum and her trying to look after me as I finished school.
I remember watching my mum lose her hair. I remember pots of paw paw lotion to heal the burns which radiation gave her. I remember her insisting that I was not to accompany her to chemotherapy. I remember how strong she was through the chemotherapy – she would even go to work afterward. But that was my mum – a trooper.
I learnt so much about my mum that year. I learnt that she was the strongest and most resilient person I know. Throughout her illness she remained positive and upbeat. She was so much more than just a cancer patient – she was my mum, me best friend, the person that still looked after our family, the person that still put others first and the person that kept kicking ass, day after day after day.
That year, I also learnt that family is the most important thing in the world and for me, through all the ups and downs of life, they will always be the people that I can come home to. It is something I am very lucky to have.
It’s been a bumpy road (with a couple of minor operations along the way) but I can confirm that my mum has been in remission for 8 years now.
After reading this story, you can understand why I have such a close connection to charities which raise money for breast cancer research and the provision of care for women going through breast cancer.
I look outside today and it is raining in Sydney, but I am hoping this will not dampen spirits as Sydney and the cricketing community turns pink in honour of Jane McGrath.
Jane McGrath was a woman just like my mum – but unfortunately one who was not so lucky.
Jane was diagnosed with breast caner at age 31 in 1997. I am always struck when I listen to Tracy Bevan (Director and Ambassador of the McGrath Foundation) speak about Jane’s first diagnosis. I am struck at how young Jane was when she was diagnosed. But more importantly, I am struck about how breast aware she was.
Tracy and Jane were best friends and after conducting one of her routine breast checks, Jane knew something was wrong with her breast. She went to her best friend forever Tracy, dropped her towel and asked Tracy if she could feel a lump. In that moment, I cannot imagine what Tracy was thinking – wanting nothing more than to feel nothing but feeling completely shocked when she did feel something.
Jane took herself to the doctor and her battle began. Despite beating breast cancer several times, Jane finally lost her battle with cancer in June of 2008. I still remember the day she passed away and holding my mum’s hand as tears rolled down our faces.
We never knew Jane. But I knew that she was so many things to so many people. A friend. A daughter. A mother. A woman with a beautiful smile. A woman who never gave up. A woman who stayed positive despite her diagnosis. A fundraiser for breast cancer. An ambassador to promote awareness of the disease. And also a person who co-founded the McGrath Foundation with Glenn in 2005.
Now, the legacy of Jane McGrath continues to exist through the foundation – her former husband Glenn and best friend forever, Tracy Bevan.
At the centre of the work the McGrath Foundation does is its mission – and that is for families experiencing breast cancer to access the support of a breast care nurse, no matter where they live and irrespective of their financial situation. Money raised places McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities across Australia and to date, the McGrath Foundation has funded 110 McGrath Breast Care Nurses and has supported more than 40,000 families going through breast cancer.
Today is Day 3 of the Sydney Test – Jane McGrath Day. Spectators are encouraged to wear pink in honour of Jane and donate to this tremendous cause. The SCG turns pink and might I say, the colour really suits it.
This year, the McGrath Foundation is aiming to raise at least $390,000 to fund the provision of McGrath Breast Care Nurses.
I am always so humbled by the generosity of the Australian community – so far already $121,000 has already been raised and that number continues to grow. B
But we still have work to do – it’s going to be harder than usual with the rain, but the generosity of human beings never ceases to amaze me. I’m hoping that we can at least help the McGrath Foundation to reach its target.
So how can you help? You can donate at pinktest.com.au from now until 13 January. You can wear pink to the SCG. You can attend the Jane McGrath High Tea today. You can take an Uber up until the 20 January using the promo code ‘MCGRATHPINK’ on your first trip and Uber will donate $10 to the McGrath Foundation. You can share your special pink test moment on social media with hashtag #pinktest.
Or you can simply use today as an opportunity to remember Jane and to make a promise to yourself to be breast aware. A woman who never gave up and whose legacy to look after families going through breast cancer continues to this day.
The facts are stark. Each day 42 Australians are diagnosed with breast cancer and one in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 85.
Let’s all work together to support these families and to remember Jane. A special woman, who I know absolutely changed the life of many.
Ladies who Legspin xxx