For any woman, let alone a mother of three young kids, it was a harrowing moment. Frozen in time, eternally etched in her mind.
“You have got stage two breast cancer,” recalls Margo Tannous of the moment she received the worst news of her life, “Automatically I thought shit I am going to die, who is going to look after my children, who is going to look after my husband?”
In that moment, the then 32-year old remembers a feeling of despair filtering through her body, “I am just sitting in that chair not knowing what the next step was. I just blacked it out,” says Margo, “It wasn’t until I got to my parents’ house, with my family there that I broke down.”
In the seconds, minutes and hours that followed. Reality slowly took hold.
“I had a very aggressive form of breast cancer. The next step was I went back two weeks later and had a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy, it was tough. My youngest was two years old. That’s how my journey started,” reflects Margo – her eldest child had just commenced kindergarten at the time.
While uncertainty loomed, Margo’s mindset shifted, “You go into fighting mode. I was not going to let this thing beat me. I will do what I have to and I am going to fight this. I was so lucky my cancer hadn’t spread. It was still contained,” she remembers thinking.
Throughout her treatment Margo was energised by her family and fundraising.
“I always bought a pink ribbon, but I never thought I was going to end up having this disease,” says Margo whose first effort among her friends raised five thousand dollars for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Margo’s mental resolve held strong as did her fundraising efforts. As well as charity events, the other constant was her husband and children, “I’ve got kids, I want to be around for my children I want to see them grow up. I never thought my cancer would come back,” says Margo.
But after seven years in remission her cancer returned, “We were all devastated,” recounts Margo, “This is not fair, why me, what have I done wrong? I don’t deserve this. It’s an automatic emotion that you have, but you deal with what you have, and I always say there is someone out there a lot worse than me. I’m still here. I will go to the end of the earth to keep fighting this disease and I will keep raising funds for as long as I can.”
Facing her latest challenge head on, Margo says she found it important to break her treatment journey into steps, so she could reach small milestones.
“Whenever I go in for a CT scan. I either get good results or I don’t but I always think what’s the next plan? What do we do with what we have got? Let’s have a plan,” shares Margo, “If you become very emotional it is just going to bring you down. I get given this strength to fight this thing.”
While there have been testing moments, “I have lost my hair twice,” says the 44-year old, “I’m still having my chemotherapy cocktail once a month, but I don’t let anything stop me.”
Margo’s desire to raise money hasn’t been diluted by the return of cancer, “Ain’t nothing going to stop me. I look forward to it. It gives me something to focus on other than having treatment.”
“Getting my story out might encourage other people to hold a Pink Ribbon breakfast, a dinner, a lunch whatever it might be. We all want to see an end to cancer and it’s my mission, my dream to see that happen.”
The mum from New South Wales, has already done her bit to see that become a reality. She’s raised more than $250,000 so far and isn’t ready to slow down, “I’m hungry every year to raise as much money as I can so hopefully it can happen soon than the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s vision of no deaths by 2030 is realised. Let’s make this happen ASAP,” says Margo.
Her son has recently graduated high school, the same son that was in kindergarten when Margo’s ‘cancer journey’ began, and it’s clear the support of her family remains the biggest catalyst for a fighting spirit, “I always tell my kids, I just want to see you achieve your best, because achieving your best makes me happy and makes me want to fight more to be here.”
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