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Real storiesNat, Maria and Belinda: Paying it forward to others
Nat, Maria and Belinda: Paying it forward to others
“Cancer changes everything. It’s not until you live this journey that you can really understand this statement.”
In June 2019, Maria and Belinda’s daughter, Natalie, died from her cancer. Natalie’s great motivation during her treatment was to help people. To express their love for their daughter and to honour her memory, her mothers are doing what they can to help others who have a child with cancer.
Right to left: Nat, Maria and Belinda.
“The news that your child has cancer is too much to accept initially. It was not something that we could even comprehend, let alone accept.”
~ Maria and Belinda
On 1 December, 2018, our daughter Natalie Vari was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. She was 24 years old. Prior to this day Nat was fit and healthy and making plans for a happy future.
Everything became surreal at that point. We kept looking at each other thinking this is not happening, not to us. It must be a bad dream and we will wake up.
As trivial as that may sound, they are the thoughts that go through your head. The news that your child has cancer is too much to accept initially. It was not something that we could even comprehend, let alone accept.
We spent that first night in ICU watching the machines remove white cells from her body. Little did we know that this would be one of so many vigils spent at her side watching machines. From that night on, the journey of cancer became our lives.
We knew very little about leukaemia and even less about the treatment and outcomes. We learnt very quickly. We learnt about the different types, we learnt about chemotherapy, we learnt about outcomes.
Nat endured three rounds of chemotherapy and so many invasive procedures. The side effects of the treatment often felt worse than the illness. Her body went through so much and at times she felt like it was just too hard. We could do nothing but hold her hand, wipe her tears and stay strong for her.
It was during these times that Redkite were our saviour. Both emotionally and financially. Nat lost her hair during the first few days of chemo. Redkite organised someone to come out and fit her with a wig and helped with the cost of it. This was huge for Nat. At 24 losing your hair was devastating for her. Prior to cancer, one of Nat’s greatest joys came from fitness and the gym.
Nat worked with a psychologist to keep her fitness going at a level that she was able to manage, it was modified to work with her treatment.
It was the thing that got Nat out of the bed every day, if only for a few minutes. During the very short times that Nat was out of the hospital Morgan worked with Nat from a specialised gym. These sessions were one of her biggest wins.
We had stopped work to be with Nat. We had run out of holidays and paid leave and we were living on what little savings we had. We had our car repossessed because we couldn’t keep up the repayments on the car loan and our mortgage at the same time. It did not matter to us. What mattered was being there to support Nat through her journey.
Redkite were able to help us with Coles vouchers that enabled us to buy food when we were really struggling and petrol vouchers to assist us in getting to the hospital. We had the privilege of having Deb, a social worker from Redkite, in our corner as well.
The help and advice she provided us was invaluable and she became a part of our family while we were there. Nat worked with a psychologist from Redkite to help her to deal with the emotional turmoil she was going through as well as the psychical. We were offered support for our other daughters Angela and Jessica; Nat was the eldest of three girls and Nat’s partner Liam was offered support.
During Nat’s journey she questioned: “Why me?”
She came to believe that it had happened to her for a reason. She believed that reason was so that she could go on and help others in the same situation.
~ Belinda and Maria, mothers of Nat
She became resolute in her focus to beat leukaemia and be a voice and a light for other people living with it.
Nat received a stem cell transplant on the 2 May, 2019 as a last resort to win her battle. She contracted a bacterial infection four days later and was transferred to ICU. She was intubated after four days in ICU and never regained consciousness.
Nat lost her battle on 13 June, 2019.
We cannot describe in words what our loss feels like – there are no words to describe.
After losing Nat we were numb. We experienced disbelief in the thought that she was gone. We have cried, we have argued, we have screamed, and have been completely broken in pieces at times.
But we have also found strength in Nat’s strength and her desire to help people. We found strength in our family and friends that supported us. Nat was so grateful to them and Redkite for the support they offered as were we.
The path of grief is so waving. There is no one way to do it. Some days we do it better than others. Our family will never be the same again, it can’t be. We are working towards our new normal, day by day, one foot in front of the other. Some days are good, some days are not. But the one thing we never lose sight of is Nat’s strength.
We will keep Nat’s hope and memory alive and although we will never be able to thank Redkite enough. We can pay it forward and remain true to Nat.
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