Life Relationships ‘What I want my boys to know when I’m gone’
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‘What I want my boys to know when I’m gone’

sara chivers brain cancer
Mother-of-two Sara Chivers was told she had terminal brain cancer, tragically followed by her 18-month-old son's diagnosis. Photo: Tess Follett
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Melbourne mother-of-two Sara Chivers, 34, was told in March she has terminal brain cancer.

Last month, she and her husband Leigh were devastated when their baby son Alfie, 18 months, was also diagnosed with brain cancer, called an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumour.

An oncologist told her there was a better chance of winning Powerball than a mother and child having different types of brain cancer.

Wanting to leave a legacy for Alfie and his big brother Hugh, 3, Sara has written a mother’s love letter to guide them after she’s gone.

“Alfie’s diagnosis has given me something else to fight for,” Sara said. “It’s not about me any more. It’s all about him.”

Dear Hugh and Alfie,

I won’t be around to see you grow up. It’s a hard thing to say and even harder to face. You will have to hear from others the little things that made me me: my perfume of choice is Michael Kors, my favourite meal is spaghetti bolognese, winter is my preferred season. I wish I was a better cook. I’m a keeper of mementos – tiny hospital name tags, the poem Leigh wrote for my 21st birthday, first baby clothes.

sara chivers brain cancer
‘Always try your best; I could never ask any more of you.’ Photo: Tess Follett

I know your Dad, and our village of family and friends, will keep me alive for you as much as they can, but there are some things I want you to hear from me.

Don’t be afraid of expressing your emotions. I will never tire of hearing ‘I love you’ from Leigh, you boys, my family, friends.

Love hard. As they say, it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. That’s how I feel about you both. Heartbroken doesn’t come close to describing the pain I feel at not being in your lives in the future, but I would never change or forego the time we have spent together and the immense joy you have brought me. You are without a doubt my proudest accomplishments.

Pay attention to study but know there is so much more to school life than textbooks. Play team sports. Try a musical instrument. Learn a language.

Always try your best; I could never ask any more of you. Never fear failure – you will learn more from mistakes than successes. There’s never anything more certain than change so embrace it. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Travel as much as possible – it will shape who you are.

Be brave in your convictions and believe in yourself. Never tease or ridicule someone because they’re different to you. You will be a better person by surrounding yourself with people who will challenge your views and beliefs.

I can never emphasise enough the importance of good table manners. Remember to say please and thank you. Address your friends’ parents by Mrs, Ms or Mr unless told otherwise. Make your bed when you stay at other people’s houses, and always offer to clear their table and do the dishes.

You will have friends for a season, friends for a reason, friends for life. It won’t take too long to work out which ones fall into which category.

sara chivers brain cancer
‘Family comes first.’ Photo: Tess Follett

Family comes first. We will always be there for you to fall back on regardless of any mistakes or bad choices, and will help you through tough times and to celebrate life’s wins.

Be kind to your Dad. It won’t be easy for him raising you alone, but every decision he makes will be with your best interests at heart. He is an exceptional father and role model. Don’t let him doubt himself or the wonderful job he will do shaping you into the men I dream of you growing up to be.

There will come a time when he wants to find happiness again with a new partner. Accept and embrace his choice, and know she will be a positive female influence in your lives too. I have absolute faith that he will make the right decision, for him and you both, and I hope she enriches your lives as much as you’ve all enriched mine.

Your Dad is the most admirable, courageous man I have ever known. He is my companion, my rock, my everything. He has shown true grit in the face of our adversities, and without him beside me I would have crumbled.

I will be forever grateful for the time we spent together, the memories we created, the love we shared. It was always him. Always will be.

Love,

Mum

sara chivers brain cancer
“The night I first kissed Leigh, a mutual friend said we would get married”: Sara and Leigh Chivers at home with sons Alfie, 18 months (left), and Hugh, 3. Photo: Tess Follett

Sara fought and beat brain cancer in 2008 but it returned in March in the form of three tumours. Her condition is terminal.

After three unsuccessful rounds of chemotherapy and other treatment, Sara was facing surgery on the most aggressive of her tumours when she and Leigh were told a sudden weakness on one side of son Alfie’s little body is because of a brain cancer unrelated to his mother’s. His treatment is ongoing.

There has been little improvement in treatment of the disease in the past 30 years, with brain cancer killing more than 30 children in Australia each year. It also kills more people aged over 40 than any other type of cancer.

Sara encourages donations for brain cancer research at Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer or Cure Brain Cancer.

You can also donate to a Go Fund Me page set up by Sara’s sister, Stephanie, to raise money for the family’s daily expenses.

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