FUNDRAISING FOR A CAUSE: Laurie Stevens (at left) has a very personal reason for being involved with Noosa's Paddle in Pink each year.
FUNDRAISING FOR A CAUSE: Laurie Stevens (at left) has a very personal reason for being involved with Noosa's Paddle in Pink each year. contributed

Paddle in Pink honours memory of lost loved one

TWENTY years have passed since Laurie Stevens lost his mother to breast cancer.

It's not something he talks about on a regular basis, although he's the first to admit perhaps he should.

"It still cuts me. I haven't got over it and I think I probably need therapy but, in a way, being involved with Paddle in Pink is a form of therapy.”

Paddle in Pink is a an annual Noosa fundraiser being held on Sunday, October 14 this year.

The event creates a sea of pink on Noosa Sound with participants on stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, surf ski, outrigger or any craft that is manually paddled or rowed.

"The purpose behind doing Paddle in Pink each year is to raise awareness of breast cancer, raise money for research and prevent other people going through this,” Mr Stevens said.

"If you can catch it early enough, then there's a chance of beating it.”

Mr Stevens said going through the experience with his mother was a steep learning curve.

"When my mother was diagnosed, I was in my mid-40s and had a family ... we lived a separate life but would go and see them a couple of times a month.

"To tell us that she had found a lump in her breast and been diagnosed with cancer, she arranged to meet us for lunch at a beach in Sydney.

"She told us it wasn't aggressive, and the doctors thought they had caught it in time. She was going through radiotherapy and then chemo.”

Mr Stevens said his immediate thought was: "This is not going to be any good”.

"Not outwardly, but I remember thinking to myself this is the normal news people get ... that everything will be fine ... but I never trusted that.

"I always thought it would be the thing that would get her, despite what anybody said.

"We spent more time seeing her. What were regular visits became more often.”

Laurie said his mother was treated with a mix of traditional and alternative therapies and the whole family was quite naïve in terms of what to expect and how to react.

"It was the first time anyone in our family had gone through this,” he said.

"Her lifestyle changed and everything was focussed on how to beat this.

"About one year later, coming up to Christmas, her last test showed she was clear and in remission. There was no evidence of cancer.

"I thought it was a load of rubbish. She did look better. But chemo is terrible; it really knocks the stuffing out of you.

"During that time that she was in remission, they hoped that she would pass the five-year barrier.

"About one year later she told us it had come back and she was reluctant to go on a second round of chemo.

"She didn't say too much about what was going on. I don't know if it was that generation, that she wanted to shelter us from the reality.”

Mr Stevens said his mother went back to hospital but there was still not a lot of conversation.

"The doctors weren't flippant ... or maybe their words didn't sink in ... the doctors said: "it's not good and we are going to move her to palliative care”.

"Not good. What an understatement!” Less than a week later she was gone.

"The cancer had spread, there basically wasn't any place it didn't go - in her spine, her lungs ... If I had realised, if someone had said to me 'I can't tell you a date, but it's terminal and we don't expect that she'll come out of this, I would have been more prepared.

"Certainly, I'm more aware now but only because of my experience.

"Mum had a tremendous amount of faith. She thought that she was going to be okay. Even when she went into palliative care I think she was hoping for a miracle.”

Mr Stevens and his son Lachlan have thrown themselves into raising awareness and funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation by organising Paddle in Pink.

"The whole point to Paddle in Pink and increasing awareness is that we want early diagnosis so there can be some prevention,” he said.

"With my mother, they got it early. There was quite a good deal of hope but the downside was the particular type of cancer was a particularly aggressive one.

"I don't think about the consequences of what happened strangely enough. It's something you do lock away and maybe I should deal with it and talk about it more.”