Cramming a lifetime into a few weeks

By Amelia Wade

Natalie Murphy is making every moment count with her son Jackson and husband Greg after her cancer diagnosis. Photo / supplied
Natalie Murphy is making every moment count with her son Jackson and husband Greg after her cancer diagnosis. Photo / supplied

The day before her son was born, Natalie Murphy found a lump in her breast.

Five months later she was told she had cancer.

Just before she went into surgery to have the 4cm lump removed, her surgeon came rushing in and told her it had spread to her spine and liver. It was terminal.

The 34-year-old was given two to five years to live.

Then last Friday she was told she would be lucky to live another two months.

Now Mrs Murphy is trying to cram a lifetime into the few weeks she has left and is fundraising for her funeral so her husband, Greg, and 2-year-old son, Jackson, don't have to worry.

"I want them to be able to concentrate on grieving and not worry about how they're going to pay for that."

Mrs Murphy, of the North Shore, is giggly and bubbly, despite her deadline, though she walks with her limp because a large tumour on her spine causes her pain.

She said her friends envy her and call her a bitch because she looks better than them.

"And I'm dying."

It's only her husband who sees her at her worst - during the night when the tumours in her back hurt and she can't sleep.

"You can cry and the crying makes you stressed. And the stress makes your liver swell up and that makes it more painful ... but I'm lucky because my friends and parents don't have to see that because those moments usually only happen very late at night."

She talks matter-of-factly and not once does her voice waver or break.

Though there is a note of melancholy as she talks about Jackson, about never being able to see him grow up.

And when she talks about her husband, the love of her life, finding someone else when she's gone.

"I hate the fact that he will someday find love again. But over time I've realised that that's what he deserves, that's what my son deserves - to see his dad happy and to have a woman's influence in his life. And one day that time will come.

"That's been a huge thing for me to get my head around ... I think that's when you know when you really love somebody, because you just want the best that them to have the best that they could possibly have."

On July 30, 2009 - the day before Jackson was born - Mrs Murphy noticed a lump in her left breast but her midwife told her it was probably from the milk and told her to focus on having her son.

"And so another five months went by with me massaging the crap out of it, thinking it was mastitis. But I was actually just spreading my cancer."

In December, she visited her GP after there was no change to the lump and it wasn't going away.

Then for two months, she waited for her referral letter from North Shore Hospital, but it never came because the hospital had no record it.

"I had to start the whole process all over again, get the letter resent and wait for my appointment letter - which was normally a four week waiting time. I finally got my appointment in early March."

Eight months after finding the lump, she finally heard the words: "You've got cancer."

"But they then had a big stuff up with my CT scan and never got the results to my breast surgeon. And I was literally in my hospital gown and had the bed wheeled in front of me and was just getting on the bed to have my single mastectomy, when my surgeon came running in and had to close the door.

"She said, 'I'm so sorry, I've just been handed your CT results and you're terminal. We can't save you'."

Last Friday, she learned the tumours in her liver and spine had grown and she was given up to two months to live.

"I was so angry for so long, for having my life ripped away from me. I kept thinking I was too young for this and my poor little boy he doesn't need to lose his mum."

It's the couple's 10-year wedding anniversary in March and they were planning to have a ceremony to mark the day. But after Mrs Murphy was given her deadline, they decided to bring it forward and have it on New Year's Day.

It is just one of a few special things she has on her bucket list.

"Ever since the word 'years' came down to months and weeks, we decided that life is not about rushing off and doing these amazing holidays and having this bucket list of extravagant things. It's about quality time with each other."

Mrs Murphy wants to go strawberry picking with her son and take her husband on a helicopter ride because he's never been, spend a week in Omaha at her cousin's bach and go to the Langham Hotel and have high tea with her mum.

Not big things, she said - fun things.

"So when I'm lying in bed during my last weeks, I'm not regretting what I haven't done."

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Natalie & Greg Murphy
BNZ 02-0238-0116716-97

Trust Acct: Hand in Hand for Natalie
02-1244-0070800-000

- NZ Herald

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