My husband Mick and I knew we were due a curveball or two. Our lives to date had been great. We had both had wonderful childhoods within supportive loving families. We had a great time at university where we met. We lived on campus and had a fun diverse group of friends who were studying a range of degrees from engineering to law and from arts to medicine. We both studied commerce which led to interesting, challenging careers. Mick entered into a career of professional chartered accounting and investment banking. I began my career with an industry accounting scholarship and then moved into senior commercial and account management roles in large chemical and telecommunications companies. We had lived in London for two years and had travelled to many parts of the world. We were living in a wonderful part of the world, Sydney and felt very lucky to live in the suburb of Randwick right beside the eastern surf beaches.
Nothing really tough or hard had come across either of our paths. However we did have a few significant challenges early on in our marriage that strengthened our love and trust in each other and our commitment to our dream of a rich family life. My father in law had a life threatening illness just before our wedding. I had an ectopic pregnancy which led to emergency surgery and I lost a fallopian tube. Then I had an early miscarriage. We were fortunate that in a relatively short space of time after that I had a successful pregnancy and our son was born.
We were keen to have a few children if possible so by the time our son was nine months old I was pregnant again. We decided to search for a new larger home for our growing family and next stage of life.
Our search led us to a house in Fairlight, across the harbour and beside Manly, the world famous surfing beach. The house was perfect for our stage of life. It was close to the surf, which was a must for Mick and I. It had the added bonus of also being near the harbour beaches and just two blocks from a little supermarket and two coffee shops. It had two outdoor spaces for the kids to play. A spare bedroom for the grandparents or friends to stay. It was level so it would be easy to carry toddlers and shopping bags and prams into and out of the house. Two of Mick’s closest mates – friends of ours from uni who also loved to surf – had already made the move to Manly – it was a bonus that they would be nearby.
We didn’t realise it then, but this was not only going to be the place where our children spent their early childhood years, it was also going to the be the place where Mick would spend the last few years of his life. The house in which Mick would die. It would become our headquarters, a place of respite, a place of palliative care.
For so many reasons – most of which we were yet to discover – we were fortunate that we moved to our home in Fairlight. Once Mick was diagnosed we would go from spending weekends, evenings and holidays together – to being together, 24 hours a day. Enjoying the new beaches and village life of Manly would provide a much needed distraction from our reality. We would be sharing our home with our support crew of our parents and many friends. The courtyard and garden would provide invaluable pockets of space to take time out and reflect when people were visiting and kids were playing. Some of the symptoms that Mick would develop included a significant limp, loss of balance and impaired vision from the swelling in his brain. This would cause much anxiety on my part, in case of falls – particularly when he was carrying our toddler or new born baby. A level house would reduce the chances of a fall.
However in our first month at our home in Fairlight, we were full of dreams. We did not know what was in store for us. We arranged a photo shoot of our young family so that we would have Christmas gifts for our parents. This photo was taken of Mick and my son just one month before Christmas Day – when my first inkling that something was amiss came to the fore.
To read about Christmas Day and the diagnosis – click here Cancer – The Curveball to Our Conventional Life (The Diagnosis)