Written by Kerrie Alexander
Gemma Lightbody had just turned 30 when she felt a lump in her breast that just didn’t feel right.
The Hervey Bay resident and her husband Ben had already endured the loss of a child, major complications with their second pregnancy and their daughter Connie had been diagnosed with a rare heart disease.
The chances of Gemma having breast cancer seemed inconceivable.
Tragically, scans revealed two tumours in one breast.
“Me and my husband were both in disbelief as I was only 30. It took a while to sink in and then a lot of tears to believe it was real,” Gemma said.
“It was a Grade 3 and really fast growing; it was two types of cancer which was a shock and with two young kids, it was hard.”
Yet, motherly instinct still trumped her illness.
Regardless of being terribly sick from the treatment and losing her hair, Gemma said it was important to make life as normal as possible for her young children, 5 and 2.
“My youngest didn’t know … I really tried to shelter them.
“I’d cry in the bathroom or cry at night-time.
“Because I was going to lose my hair, I got a book from Cancer Council so we could read it together.
“We read about the nasty medicine, and he knew mum would feel tired and he knew mum would lose her hair.
“I put a smile on my face and stayed as happy as I could for my kids.
“It was important to me to stay brave and strong because I am their protector. I’m the one that needs to be there to keep them safe and they are so young to have to see their mum sick.”
Along with a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts), Gemma had five months of chemotherapy, alongside a drug called Herception that worked miracles.
A year later, she is now cancer free.
These are drugs that were only developed in recent years thanks to those who dig deep and donate funds to assist Cancer Council Queensland with their relentless research to find a cure.
“I don’t believe I would have got a full pathological response from chemo without Herceptin to go alongside the chemotherapy,” Gemma said.
“This was only discovered 20 years ago thanks to research into breast cancer, so I am so grateful for this … I probably wouldn’t be able to say I’m cancer free without this treatment.”
That’s why it was an easy decision for Gemma to become The Hervey Bay Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic Ambassador for 2022.
“I want to help spread the word and awareness of breast cancer and how many different types there are and different treatment plans as there is so many different factors involved which people don’t realise until they have it.
“Research is so important to keep women like me around to live longer and have the best chance to survive.”
Tens of thousands of people around Australia will unite for the Mother’s Day Classic to celebrate and honour those affected by breast cancer and raise vital funds for research.
There will be up to 70 event locations nationwide where supporters can walk, run, or jog for the cause on Mother’s Day.
In Hervey Bay, organisers Kylie Howe, Jade Wellings and a small team of volunteers have been piecing together the highly anticipated event on Sunday, May 8.
Jade said she was invested in making the annual classic the best event it can be, with the tradition of bringing the community together and showing support and honour for those touched by breast cancer well and truly in the spotlight.
“A lot of the time breast cancer survivors or family members, or those who have suffered from it, will come up to us in tears, thanking us so much for what we’re doing … and that’s what keeps us going. It’s so important to us,” Jade said.
“Aside from raising money, it also gives people a chance for reflection; if anyone has been touched by breast cancer, themselves, or someone they care about, it’s like they are walking or running for that person and that side of it can be fairly healing.
“A lot of the people that come to the event aren’t die hard runners, in fact, we get a lot more walkers than runners because they are there for the cause.”
Jade said there was always a great family atmosphere and sense of camaraderie between participants including Martina Hallum and her family who supply free water bottles each year.
“Martina does that every year in honour of her Nan who died from cancer,” Jade said.
“They use the money they make from recycling bottles and cans to buy the water for the classic and go to the event as a family and hand the water out.
“It’s just so lovely. It really is a nice day for families to come out and do it together, especially on Mother’s Day.
“We welcome kids, their scooters if they need to keep up and the family dog – participate how you like.”
The event will start at the Urangan Pier with the 5km and 10km walk starting at 7.30am, where those on the start line will take part in a survivor’s wave.
“Rather than an event where runners go to the front of the event and the walkers at the back, in this event the survivors and their family will be up the front.”
This will be followed by the 5km and 10km run and 2km junior dash.
So, get dressed in your best pink outfit and get ready to be part of a passionate crowd with plenty of community spirit!
You’ll also receive a commemorative medallion, handed over with pride when you cross the finish line.
Entries can be taken on the day or signup online at mothersdayclassic.com.au/qld-herveybay
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and sadly, 8 Australians die from it every single day.
- Together we can improve the lives of the 55 Australians diagnosed with breast cancer each day – now and in the future.
- In the 24-year history of the Mother’s Day Classic, almost $40 million has been donated to fund game-changing breast cancer research.