HOW do you tell your three young children that you've been diagnosed with breast cancer?
How do you prepare them for the pain and suffering you will endure during five and a half months of chemo and seven weeks of radium?
For North Star mother Pamela Schramm that situation led to the launch of her children's book My Strong Mummy to guide others facing the same dilemma with positivity and hope.
Addressing 600 women at the 2016 Weengallon Racing Pink Ladies Day on Wednesday, Pamela explained that at the time of her diagnosis in April 2015 she was 40 years old, her boys James and Harry were six and four and her daughter Ivy was just eight months old.
For Pamela and her husband Peter, telling the children raised huge issues as they'd lost Peter's mother Janet to metastatic melanoma the year before.
"We didn't say I had cancer straight out because they'd just lost their grandmother to cancer and at the time we hadn't explained there were different cancers. We were worried they would think I was going to die too,” Pamela recalls.
"So initially we just said I had a lump that needed to be removed and I needed the medication to make sure it was gone.”
That first period of time was fraught with anxiety for Pamela and Peter.
Having had a melanoma removed from her right shoulder during her last pregnancy, Pamela was initially misdiagnosed with melanoma cancer, which can't be treated.
"It actually turned out to be good news when the specialist rang and said I had a very rare and aggressive breast cancer called metaplastic breast cancer.”
Pamela was one of just 20 women in Australia with this form of breast cancer.
"They told me not to Google it because there is no accurate information at all and anyone who Googles it would have me dead and buried,” she laughed.
"The upside was it responds to chemotherapy.”
In hospital Pamela's breast- care nurse gave her a little brochure on how to explain your cancer treatment to your children.
"The brochure was black and white and morbid, saying 'I hope to be there when you finish school,' 'I hope to see you get married'. It was all very negative,” she said.
"I cried in hospital all night after reading it, thinking how can I read that to the kids?”
Pamela began writing her own story for her children.
"The steroids I was given after chemo meant I would wake up at 2am and that's when I would write. It gave me a focus.”
Friends encouraged her to share her book, setting up a GoFundMe account to finance the publishing.
Her mother, Joy Dill, began illustrating the story and My Strong Mummy was launched in March.
The books sell for $15, with all proceeds going to Breast Cancer Network Australia and $1000 to Mummy's Wish Foundation.
Two months later Pamela was given the news that she was cancer free. Now she lives with the dread of the cancer coming back.
Pamela has overhauled her lifestyle trying desperately to be fit and healthy.
Her voice breaks. "The problem is, even fit and healthy people get cancer.”
"Life goes on and you have to try to forget about every little lump and bump, cough and headache and not fear that it's the cancer returning.”
She takes a deep breath and focuses on the positive.
"The love and support I've had from family, friends and strangers has given me so much strength and really makes you realise how many amazing, caring people are out there.”
Photos from the 2016 Weengallon Pink Ladies Day will be in next week's Rural Weekly.
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