Candice Wyatt has many reasons to smile, she’s co-anchor of Melbourne’s Eyewitness News and has met the love of her life Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell.
It’s hard to imagine that just three years ago, she watched her mother draw her last breath… just 6 months and 16 days after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Candice joins our powerful Mother’s Day series as a daughter who has worked through her grief and as ambassador for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.
By Candice Wyatt.
My Mum always had a feeling she would die young. And every time she mentioned it to me, I would tell her to stop being ridiculous. She was the fittest, most health conscious and resilient woman I’d ever known. There was no way her life would end prematurely. She’d live to 110, I thought. I was wrong.
In April 2013 she developed vertigo. Initially her GP treated it with antibiotics… But when her condition didn’t improve, MRI scans were ordered and they revealed something sinister. Within days my Mum was put on a fixed wing aircraft and flown from our country property near Warrnambool in South West Victoria, to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. Within 48 hours of arriving she was having brain surgery to remove two small tumours. Eight hours later, she woke up not being able to use her left leg or her left arm… And that’s the way it remained. My Mum who had taught aerobics her entire life, just trekked Kokoda twice and had decided to sign up to her first marathon, never walked again. She was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), Category 4. The most aggressive brain cancer there is.
What followed was 6 months and 16 days of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, seizures, behavioural changes, and three hospital swaps. Confined to either her bed or a wheelchair, she could do little. The steroids she was on to reduce the swelling on her brain made her put on an extraordinary amount of weight. And she lost her long hair that had been so central to her identity. My super fit and gorgeous Mum was now unrecognisable, mostly stuck indoors, and frightened… Then on October 19, 2013 at 6.30pm I watched my beautiful 56-year-old mother take her final breath.
After so much pain… I initially felt relief. Her ordeal was over. No one should have to suffer the way she had. No one should be confined to hospital the way she had been. And no one as active as her should have their mobility taken away like she had. But what followed has been an incredible struggle between never wishing my mother one extra day of pain… But wishing more than anything that I could have her back, even just for a day.
In my first year without her I cried every day. Mostly in the shower at night. I lit candles just to stare into the naked dancing flame and wonder where her spirit was. I beat myself up over whether I could have done more to make her final months any better than I had. When faced with time to breathe and take in what had just happened, I began to cry for her and how scared she had been. What did she think about when visiting hours were over and we were gone? So many times I had walked into her room to find her sitting in a wheelchair and staring out the window. I knew she was terrified. And looking back, it upsets me that she was often alone and that I couldn’t be there with her for every hour of every day to help take away the fear of the inevitable.
I always thought I’d see her in my dreams and sometimes in the months after she died I would look forward to bed, hoping that Mum would visit me while I slept. She never did. And then the nightmares started… The kind that made it too scary to go back to sleep. I’d wake up in tears wondering why my subconscious wouldn’t simply let me see my beautiful Mum from time to time… The way she was before she got sick. Running around like crazy, with a ridiculous laugh, a zest for life and long straight hair to her waist. All I wanted, was to see her… Even for a few seconds.
Then, on the first anniversary of her death, something inside me clicked. I realised I had to learn to live a life without my Mum in it.
She faced more hurdles in her life than anyone I’ve ever known… The majority of them in the years since she’d had me. She was the strongest woman I’m ever likely to meet and I know that if she were here she’d tell me to get it together. Acceptance though has been hard because since losing Mum, amazing things have happened in my life that I would have loved to share with her. I’ve been promoted to co-anchor of Network Ten’s Melbourne news bulletin, I’ve bought my first property, and I’ve met the love of my life. And boy, would she adore him…
I currently only wear one ring. It’s a simple rose gold piece of bling I bought Mum one Mothers Day when I was a struggling University student working a retail job in a shopping centre. Mum preferred costume jewellery and wore all sorts of weird and wacky things that I would shake my head at. Our tastes in fashion were so different. But I didn’t know what to get her that year, so I walked into a generic jewellery store, scrounged together some money and bought her this ring. She loved rose gold long before it became “trendy” and I remember her jaw dropping when she opened it. Now that she’s gone, it’s returned to me. So, for now, it sits on my finger to remind myself that even though I no longer have a Mum to spoil on Mother’s Day, I did once… And she was amazing.
Find out more about Cure Brain Cancer here.
Candice has always been a great supporter of our ‘Ambassadors for Good; nights, which raise money for women and children living in crisis.
Find out more about the events by heading over here.
Popular chat of the month: with ABC radio’s Clare Bowditch
Thanks to all the writers for this ‘Mother’s Day series.’
Honoured to receive this piece from: The Age Newspaper’s Lawrence Money about his mum Doris.