As told by her mother, Jane.
Jane is Georgia’s mum. Georgia had a very rare, aggressive tumour, a small cell carcinoma of the ovary. Georgia passed away in September, 2013. Jane talks about the challenges she and Georgia faced.
What were the main challenges and what worked best?
Being told that your daughter has a very rare, aggressive cancer
(After a very long lead up to diagnosis), we were told that Georgia had a rare, aggressive cancer. Georgia had small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hyper calcaemic type. I did the research. Georgia was 18 years-old, her tumour 17cms and she had hypercalcaemia. With these features, the research says that the life span from diagnosis is usually 8 months.
To the day, save for the fact that Georgia remained for my birthday, Georgia died eight months later on the 13th of September, at the 13th hour of the 13th year. It is an auspicious day to die in the Jewish religious calendar as you don’t have to wait to get into heaven, you are in automatically.
Having a terrible conversation with a very humane doctor
I will never forget the 22nd of June, Georgia’s 19th Birthday. It will go down in my life as being the day that I had one of the most terrible conversations of my life. Georgia’s second surgery was supposed to take 20 mins. Five hours later her doctor appeared. He was visibly upset and I knew by the length of surgery that things must be bad. The cancer had spread through her pelvis. He said that radiotherapy was to be purely palliative and he had never in all his time seen such an aggressive cancer. Neither he, nor the anaesthetist who had a daughter the same age as Georgia, charged us for the operation. It was hard for them too.
Having conversations that weren’t for the faint-hearted
Georgia was vibrant, full of life and hope. We would have odd conversations.
‘Mum will you be sad when I am gone?’
‘Yes, Georgia, every single moment of every day.’
And, ‘Mum will I be in pain in the end?’
‘No darling, if we get to that, I promise you that we will have that pain under control.’ And we did.
These conversations are not for the faint-hearted nor should any parent have to have them. But many will and some are having them right now – my heart and strength goes out to them. They will need every bit of loving kindness and fortitude that they can muster.
Having a roster for chemotherapy and radiotherapy
I had organised a roster for taking Georgia to chemo. I took her on a Monday – she needed me the first day of every round as she hated going. Friends took her Tuesday and Wednesday and her father took her Thursday and Friday as by the last two days of each round she didn’t want to talk or entertain anyone – she was too sick and too tired.
After every round of chemotherapy, we did special things in the third week when she was recovered enough. It was to get a break from the grim routine, give her a taste of normal whatever that is and celebrate another milestone.
We had a roster of drivers for radiotherapy too. I picked people who would love her, inspire her, care for her and lift her up and be able to hold her fears. Variety was important.
I cannot tell you how brave and courageous Georgia was. The chemotherapy made her very, very sick. Yet, she went to yoga, ran the lighthouse, read books she had always wanted to read, listened to music, went partying – she lived every moment of every day with gusto and determination. She was outrageous and courageous. She would do skits in various accents and make us laugh through the heaviness: ‘Hey I am quite a catch – what with the cancer, the no -hair, the early menopause, the dried up vagina…’ She asked others all about their lives. She got sick of being defined by her cancer and refused to be ‘the cancer kid’.
She shone like a comet in the sky
After she had had some scans to check the progress of the tumour, her GP came. She asked if he had seen the scans. He had.
‘What’s happening,’ she asked?
‘Darling, you are dying,’ he replied. So gently said.
We were coming to the end of this roller coaster of hope and despair.
Georgia’s GP was brilliant with pain management and palliative care. So was our friend the nurse. We were lucky to have such support. The community dropped meals, brought good cheer, we had a very special friend staying who played guitar and sang and another who came and sang to her as well. We drank prosecco and it became a house of life and love. It was not the house of an old person dying. It was the house of a young woman, living each moment fully – going to restaurants, to the beach, to coffee. Tottering on thin legs with a morphine driver and lots of swagger.
Finally, the day before she died, Georgia could not leave the house. On September the 13th, Georgia Madeleine Enter died in my arms. Leaning back into my chest, I put my hand on her heart, told her I loved her and she could breathe. She drew her last breath. It is a terrible privilege to bring your child into this world and to hold and love them as they leave.
Her close friends have since been inspired to live as fully as they can to honour Georgia, who couldn’t. And I can tell you that Georgia was a comet who blazed through the sky, lit it up and went too young and too soon. The world is a darker place without her for us who loved her, but the sky has her dancing across it, lighting the way for others who come too soon.
You can read Georgia’s heart wrenching and inspiring story in full, as told by her mother Jane, here. It is part of the ‘Is it just me?’ Younger women’s 12-25 resource, available on the Ovarian Cancer Australia website here.