In August 2015 I took my Collingwood-supporting mum Christine to the Pies v Demons game at the MCG.
Mum was recovering from chemotherapy after a breast cancer diagnosis. While her physical strength had returned, her hair had not. At half-time we walked into the Frank Grey Smith bar for a drink and the attendant asked Mum to take her beanie off to enter. We (politely) told him about Mum’s situation and he apologetically withdrew, joking about how he, a balding man, doesn’t have any hair either - but he did point out he wouldn’t be getting his hair back!
Going to today’s game, mum said: “I hope we see that man so I can show him I have hair now!”
Yep, mum has come a long way! In 2014, she discovered a lump and after getting checked, received the news that it was, in fact, breast cancer. A mastectomy and chemotherapy followed, and now she’s doing really well, having been given a clean bill of health very recently.
While our story has gone well, we are acutely aware that it has not gone well for others. Last year, many members of our family joined mum on the MCG surface for the field of women, raising both awareness and money for the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA). On that day we met people who had lost women important to them - sisters, daughters, mums, friends. It was a very emotional experience seeing them holding photos and messages dedicated to their loved ones.
We were very grateful mum’s cancer was identified early, enabling the best chance for treatment. I can’t talk about how mum felt during her battle, but I can tell you that the BCNA made the experience easier for our family, with their resources explaining each medical procedure making it easier to understand what was going on and helping reassure us things would be ok.
This week’s Demons v Hawks game was Melbourne’s annual ‘Pink Lady Game’. Mum (wearing her BCNA scarf, beanie and socks) and my dad Jeffrey (wearing significantly less pink!) joined me at the 'G. There were plenty of ‘pink’ activities, including a field of messages from people affected by breast cancer. I caught a glimpse of some of the messages and, as my eyes started to well up, I warned Mum not to read any because she’d probably cry too!
On the way in mum spoke about watching the story of Amber, (who had featured on the Demons website, telling of being diagnosed at age 27) and admiring how strong she was to share her story so publicly. I reckon mum displayed similar strength, as do all people who fight cancer, so I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m sharing parts of her story on her behalf.
The Demons ran through a pink banner, all wearing pink socks. At stages during the game you would have thought mum was the Melbourne supporter as she rode every bump and tackle with us, pleading for free kicks when the Dees players caught Hawks players with the ball.
She was cheering just as much as my Dees-supporting dad and we were when the final siren went and we could all breathe a sigh of relief that we had held on for a win. That’s our mum – always wanting her family to be happy!
It had been a good day both on and off field and we were grateful we can continue to do this together. We’ll continue to support BCNA and we encourage all members to do the same. The more their message gets out, the more women will get checked and identify problems early, giving the best chance of saving lives!
Joe Ryan follows golf, cricket, Aussie rules and rugby league. Still hoping for a Demons flag before climate change floods the MCG.
MELBOURNE 2.3 4.5 9.10 11.13 (79)
HAWTHORN 4.5 5.8 7.8 11.8 (74)
Melbourne: Hunt 2, Brayshaw, Stretch, Fritsch, Jones, Garlett, McDonald, Neal-Bullen, Lockhart, Harmes
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Gunston 3, O'Meara, Lewis, Shiels, Roughead
Melbourne: Harmes, Gawn, Hibberd, Salem, Oliver
Hawthorn: Gunston, Shiels, O'Meara, Hardwick, Worpel