Dublin girl opens up about heartache of mum's cancer death and appeals for people to be sun smart
A young Dublin woman whose mum died of skin cancer last month has made a Christmas appeal to others not to take risks in the sun.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration and happiness with those you cherish around you.
But for Laura Bhasker from Mulhuddart, this year has been blighted with heartache and sadness.
The 22-year-old lost her mum, Avril, 57, last month to skin cancer and now Laura is appealing to teenagers and those in their 20s to stop taking chances in the sun.
She said: “I remember she sat us down. She said, ‘Kids, I have something to tell you…I have cancer. But I promise it’s not bad.’
“My mum always had a way of making things seem like they would be fine. She never told us the extent of her cancer, she wanted to protect us. Just like she always did.
“‘It’s skin cancer,’ she said. Everyone thought ‘oh skin cancer, that’s not that bad. She will be ok.’
“I failed to realise how dangerous skin cancer really was. I didn’t realise it was one of the most aggressive types of cancer you could get. I just didn’t know.
“I watched my beloved and selfless 57-year-old mum dwindle away to nothing due to thinking the life-altering effects of the sun would not hurt her.”
Laura said Avril stayed positive throughout the whole process and told her, her brother Ryan and sister Cassie, that she was fine and that she was not in any pain.
Laura added: “I believed her. I think I knew things were bad when I woke up to her screaming. She was sitting up on the bed when I went into her bedroom and her arm had somehow broken in half.
“I rushed her to the hospital and there we found out the cancer had actually spread to her bones, including her spine.”
Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, Avril, who was Scottish, was a driven business woman and trained therapist. She ran and owned four businesses including affordable home care and Casa careers and lived in many different countries including Spain, Italy and Singapore.
Laura said Avril stayed positive throughout the whole process and told her, her brother Ryan and sister Cassie, that she was fine and that she was not in any pain
Laura explained: “My mum was amazing – she thought little of helping people. She took in a homeless woman who was addicted to drugs and alcohol, she gave her a chance and never once gave up on her even though plenty of people said she was not right to.
“Fast forward a few years and now this woman owns her own house and is successfully running her own business. It makes me so proud to think of how she helped so many people and of the type of woman she was.”
In the months leading up to Avril’s death, she suddenly lost her ability to walk, keeping her bed bound.
Heartbroken Laura recalled: “I watched my once happy, outgoing, funny mum slowly deteriorate into something we could no longer recognise.
“I watched her lose use of everything from her legs to her arms, to herself. She slowly stopped making jokes and began to fade. She seemed depressed and no longer full of life.
“She felt so degraded when she had to use the bed pan. Eventually she couldn’t even muster up the energy or strength to use the bed pan and was restricted to dipers. She would scream in pain when I would change her.
“I can still hear her cries. The last thing cancer took from my mum was her speech.”
Laura and her siblings longed to hear her tell them she loved them and comfort them in someway.
But she said: “Unfortunately the cancer had then spread to her brain. In her last few weeks, my siblings and I would feed her, read to her and sing to her. It was a beautifully painful memory we will always share.
“I know it is too late for my mum to go back and change the things in her life we all wished she had, but from her death I hope to spread awareness.
“I don’t want her death to be in vain. I want to help and save other families from this horrible heartbreaking disease, a disease which I can only explain as coming in like a tornado destroying everything and everyone in it’s path.
“It’s something that stays with you for life, all the hospital visits, the sitting waiting up to find out whether or not surgeries were successful, whether my mum had died or not during them. It’s a torture I can’t begin to explain.”
Laura added: “I hope she was comforted by us in her last moments and hope she knows how proud we were of her for fighting for so long. I hope she knows how loved she was.
“So I will ask this one thing, please before anyone goes to use a sun bed or sunbathe without any protection, just think of my story, think of my mum. It only takes one time to damage your health irreversibly.
“We never knew how bad cancer was until we had to watch someone we loved suffer through it. Only then did we truly see the wrath of cancer. You think no, that will never happen to me, or someone I love.
“But you see cancer has no age restrictions, no gender, no rules. It can come whenever it wants and doesn’t care how old you are, how scared you are or if you believe in God.
“If you dare to play his game of chance then you better be ready for the consequences. When cancer comes knocking on the door to collect his debt, you better believe it will be ruthless, taking everything on its way out.”