The perfect Christmas gift
By LEE McDOUGALL
WHEN young Sally and Sophie O'Brien rush to their Christmas tree on Monday morning, their greatest present won't be wrapped in bright paper ? she will be sitting behind them watching and enjoying the festivities.
Mum Sue will enjoy her ninth Christmas with her girls and husband, Allan, after beating the odds and surviving gynaecological cancer.
"I've been clinging on to life with both hands for almost 10 years now," Sue said yesterday.
"This Christmas will be my ninth since I was diagnosed with gynaecological cancer. When I was told I had cancer, I had a 10-month-old baby, Sally, and another on the way.
"I was so excited about being pregnant again. Then suddenly, all that joy was tainted."
Because gynaecological cancer is so intimate, most people feel too embarrassed to talk about it.
"Because of my pregnancy, chemo and radiotherapy was not an option for me," Sue said.
"Surgery was the only option I would consider. But it wasn't a pleasant one, let me tell you. I remember when my doctors told me about all the tissue they would have to cutout.
"It was shocking, the tears rolled out of me. But I could deal with the pain. What I found particularly hard to bear was the thought of my 10-month-old daughter, Sally, being without her mother, and that I might not see my unborn child grow up."
Today, almost 10 years later, Sue has survived a second round of cancer, this time involving radiation and chemotherapy but is confident of seeing her girls through many more Christmases.
To this end, Sue last month offered her story ? and her family ? as the Cancer Council's ambassador for their annual Christmas fundraising ap-peal.
Each Christmas the Cancer Council launches its appeal in the hope of raising much needed funds for cancer research.
"Sometimes, when I think about what I would have missed out on if I'd died all those years ago, I feel like I'm the luckiest person around," Sue said.
"But the truth is my survival has little to do with luck and a lot to do with research and the care and love I received."