Emma Maiden, Assistant Secretary Unions NSW, will be leading the Unions NSW team in the Sydney leg of the Mother’s Day Classic. Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and is a shining example of strength and survival. She is participating in the Mother's Day Classic to raise funds for breast cancer research to find a cure so her sister, daughter and niece, never have to go through what she did. This is her story. 

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A strong family history (her mother died from the disease at the age of 56) meant Emma was more mentally prepared for her breast cancer diagnosis than most. However, she credits the attitude of her employer and workmates, as well as the strong support from family and friends, and writing a blog every day for the first year, as central to getting her through.

“As a union official I represented a member who was demoted when she was diagnosed with breast cancer”, Emma said.

“Such discriminatory and callous treatment was a devastating blow for her, when she was already dealing with a traumatic diagnosis.

“I was lucky. My employer offered me extra time off, flexible working and literally a shoulder to cry on at times. When I found out I had cancer in my other breast too I actually took my husband to my office to process my thoughts before going home. I was a mess, but the workplace had become such a supportive environment for me, I felt safe.

“Everyone is different, but I set the tone of my diagnosis by being very open about it. I don’t think ‘breasts’ had been mentioned so many times at our staff kitchen table before or since.

“A week before my double mastectomy all my workmates took me out for karaoke. It was a really fun night that helped take my mind off everything. I also had food parcels from friends, workmates and a gourmet food service from my husband’s work. And lots of beautiful flowers.

“Generally people are unsure how to react when someone they know is diagnosed with cancer. It’s okay to not have the perfect words. You just need to make yourself available to listen if the person wants to talk. And taking the initiative to provide practical assistance like meals and kid wrangling is invaluable. Don’t wait to be asked.”

Unions NSW has fielded a team in this Sunday’s Mother’s Day Classic for the last two years, with Emma as the captain. This year the team is 17 strong.

“Many people re-evaluate their lives after a cancer diagnosis and make changes. I never felt that need. I have a wonderful family and I love my job: focussed on improving the lives of workers. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Unions NSW is hoping to recruit some extra runners (or walkers) for the team. Register here, and make sure you join the Unions NSW team. If you can’t join us, please consider following this link to make a small donation. 

If you’d like more information on how to deal with a friend or relative’s breast cancer diagnosis check out: http://www.breastcancer.org.au/about-breast-cancer/family-friends-and-carers.aspx

 

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