Michelle hopes that sharing her personal story will help those who may be facing the same harrowing situation now as she did back then.
“In 2017, my mum had had a cough for months, it was diagnosed as a chest infection, and she was given antibiotics which did not resolve it. She went back to the GP who sent her for a scan and that was when she was diagnosed with cancer.”
Michelle was with Lynn when the devastating news was broken and, on that day, they went home and had to break the news to Michelle’s sister, Heather. They sat and cried into the night, trying to get their heads around it.
“Mum could only have a specific type of chemo with eight sessions as the cancer she had was right by her heart so she couldn’t be operated on. Sadly, this did not help as the tumour had aggressively spread to her liver, and it was at this point we were told she was on palliative care.
“This hit my mum hard as she was devastated. She was a nanna and so close to my daughters and heavily involved in their lives, she wanted to see them grow up. Having that taken away from her was unthinkable. “
Lynn went through every emotion; she was angry, in denial and at her lowest point. Michelle and Heather had to hold it together for Lynn when they were with her, so she felt supported. They saved their tears for each other and helped one another through it.
Not long after returning, they all started to talk about Lynn’s dying wishes. Lynn had specific requests such as not having lilies at her funeral as she didn’t like them.
“We never pushed these conversations with mum. Once she got her head around what was happening, she took control of her funeral. Heather and I found we got great comfort in finding out what she wanted – one of the things was for us to have a ring made each containing her ashes, something she looked into herself.
“One evening, Heather, mum and I found ourselves sitting in mum’s conservatory talking about the funeral. We were looking at coffins and Heather was pulling up pictures of weird and wonderful options – some we found hilarious. It was the most bizarre feeling as we found ourselves laughing and crying simultaneously. It felt nice, and it lightened the mood. Mum picked the most beautiful coffin – she loved the beach, and it had a sunset beach theme.
“Mum sadly passed away in April 2020. It was devastating even though we were prepared. When we were going through her things, we found a book she had hidden and made with pictures of her favourite moments of all of us. At the end of the book, she had written a personal letter each to Heather and me, telling us how much she loved us and how proud she was of us. I can’t describe how amazingly happy and heartbroken this made me – it is something we will keep forever.”
Michelle is championing for people to open up and talk about dying as it matters.
“People are going through this right now, and it is traumatic. I can only say that starting a conversation about dying with your loved one means they have a choice in what will happen to them – something that was so important to my mum and us.”