For Michelle from Shepparton, the beach was a place where her very best memories were made.
She loved the beach – and all that it represented – for her entire life.
Michelle would close her eyes and just listen while her children messed about, playing for hours in the sunshine and sand.
Michelle’s children have reached out to Ambulance Victoria, and the Mordialloc Life Saving Club, to say thank you for helping fulfil their mother’s final wish to visit the beach one last time.
Fifty-four-year-old Michelle passed away on Tuesday 26 February after a long fight with breast cancer, which had recently spread throughout her body.
Her children – Alex, Victoria, Sebastian, and Charlotte – expressed their gratitude to Ambulance Victoria for making one of their mother’s final moments so memorable.
“We wanted to thank you for giving us the opportunity to take mum to the beach one final time. It has made us feel so thoroughly supported,” Alex said.
“It’s a really awful thing seeing someone in a palliative environment, and this gave Mum the opportunity to be a person again, a person that does the things that they like to do as opposed to being a sick person that has to be in hospital. It gave her the chance to feel like she was just someone doing what they wanted to do on a normal afternoon.”
“For every family holiday growing up, we would go to the beach where she would just sit with her eyes closed, listening, while myself and my three siblings messed about,” Alex said.
“She had that opportunity again thanks to Ambulance Victoria and I will be forever grateful to you all.”
Alex says the day itself was bittersweet, as Michelle sat with her eyes closed and reflected on previous visits to different beaches throughout her life, reminiscing with her children about trips to Torquay, and to Robe in South Australia.
In a picture taken on the day of the visit, Michelle was surrounded by her family.
Alex explains: “When mum was initially diagnosed in early 2017, she was only given six to nine months to live, and she was pretty upset but she turned to me and said: ‘I’m determined to see my grandchildren’”.
“Her first grandchild, Evie, my niece, was born in mid-December 2018. She was able to spend two-and-a-half months with her.”
Since her passing, Michelle’s children have created a McGrath Foundation fundraising page for friends and family to donate in lieu of flowers. Two weeks on, they have raised over $7,500.
“When you lose someone who is so young – she was only 54-years-old, and we’re all in our 20s – it just feels so unfair, and it feels like the world is against you,” Alex said.
“I think that the fundraising has helped us give meaning to something that has no meaning.”
Michelle’s children have specifically asked for their fundraising efforts to be directed to Breast Care Nurses.
McGrath Breast Care Nurses are registered nurses who are specially trained to manage the care of people with breast cancer from diagnosis, and throughout the course of their treatment.
A McGrath Breast Care Nurse usually has a background in oncology, breast care or women’s health, and – like in Michelle’s case – can help make the transition into palliative care a smoother process for patients and their families.
“Mum had a Breast Care Nurse in her last month who was always coming around to make sure she was okay, having discussions between palliative care and oncology, and just providing advice,” Alex said.
“So many people that die of breast cancer don’t die because of the cancer in their breast specifically. They die of complications arising from the cancer spreading, so you’re dealing with so many issues that are sort of unrelated to breasts but ultimately come down to it being a breast cancer diagnosis,” Alex said.
“There are just a whole lot of factors to consider, and the Breast Care Nurses are amazing at being an intermediary between different specialities.”
Alex says that he, his siblings and their family are remembering Michelle for the amazing and supportive mother and woman that she was.
To honour her wishes, they will spread Michelle’s ashes at her favourite beach, at her sister’s house in Tasmania.