Andrea and Derek had been planning a joint 40th birthday party. Their birthdays, only a month apart were going to be celebrated together, a festive milestone surrounded by friends and family. Unfortunately, Andrea didn’t make it.
Andrea died at the age of 39, the same age her mother was when she passed away. She was just 14 years old when she lost her.
As her stepmother and a close part of her family, I got to see firsthand how she coped with having incurable breast cancer and the way it impacted her and her family’s daily life.
Andrea found a lump in her breast while showering one morning. After a visit to the oncologist she was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2014.
The hardest part of her diagnosis was telling her children she had cancer. Andrea and Derek have seven children between the ages of 20 and 2. As a stay at home mum who also homeschooled her kids, they were her love and joy.
At the beginning, she would tell her little ones that medicine was going to make everything better, and that after an operation she would be OK again. But as the cancer got worse, telling the truth was almost unbearable.
Andrea’s vocation was really caring for, teaching and raising her family. She was also on the Board of Trustees for one of her children’s primary schools and ran an afterschool care program for up to 70 children from 2001 – 2006.
As well as raising her family, Andrea’s faith was very strong and she was involved with a church support group that helped her greatly when she got sick.
Then, there was the help from Sweet Louise. Being a member was very positive for Andrea. She loved going to the member meetings and being part of another support group. The vouchers she received were fantastic too. In fact, you can still find them in Andrea’s handbag to this day. Andrea rarely spent money on herself, so having the vouchers to use on things like haircuts and getting her nails done was a special treat for her.
The family day initiatives that Sweet Louise made happen were very precious to her as well. She loved being able to make memories with, but mostly for, her children.
I think because Andrea lost her own mother so young, she knew how hard it was going to be for her kids to lose her. She was so acutely aware of how her death was going to impact their lives. It must have been terrifying.
But as terrifying as that would have been, Andrea planned ahead, in the hope to give her kids something even when she physically couldn’t be there. She wrote cards to all her 7 kids for their special milestones like birthdays and weddings.
There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t think about her. There’s not one morning Derek doesn’t wake up thinking “she’s not here”.
Thank you to all those who support Sweet Louise. You really are making a huge difference to the lives of women and their families who are suffering through such a terrible illness. Andrea loved the support she received and asked Derek to make sure he acknowledged Sweet Louise at her funeral.
Five months on from Andrea’s death we are busy planning her party. The menu is ready, the cake planned and I’m looking forward to a get together. Andrea never made 40 but she made a big, beautiful family that will love and care for each other in memory of their amazing mum.