Cancer sufferer pens journey for daughter

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Cancer – it’s not the easiest subject to talk about.

But Marisa Calo has embraced the opportunity to share her cancer journey in a new digital scrapbook dedicated to her four-year-old daughter, Avia.

“I know you will miss me when I am gone, and I hope you will remember me,” the 29-year-old has written.

“I also hope that I have given you enough, enough of me that you can think of me happily and remember who I was, rather than think of me in sadness and regret and that I am not with you.”

Mrs Calo’s wish for daughter Avia to know her story has been made possible by a new project called It’s About Us.

Funded by the San Foundation of Sydney Adventist Hospital (known as the San), the online scrapbook is available to all people and families affected by cancer. It provides people with an opportunity to express themselves either as a cathartic exercise and a personal memoir, or to leave as a lasting legacy for their family.

Mrs Calo was 27 when she found out she had breast cancer in 2013. Last year, doctors upgraded it to stage four.

“I will always be having treatment now, they can never really totally get rid of it,” she said.

Writing Letters for Avia – What I want my daughter to know was a therapeutic experience for Mrs Calo. In it she talks about her diagnosis, treatment, childhood memories, milestones, relationships with friends, family and her husband, and her love for her daughter.

“It’s comforting to know that if or when something does happen to me there’s a book there that my daughter can pick up any time. It’s not just about my cancer and treatment, it’s about our whole lives together,” she said.

The It’s About Us project was the vision of the director of the San’s Integrated Cancer Centre, Associate Professor Gavin Marx, his wife Jo Marx and friend Desray Maltz.

“We were inspired by my many patients’ courage, wisdom, insights and clarity of what is truly important and meaningful in their lives,” Dr Marx said. “It’s About Us provides a valuable instrument for communication and connection between patients and their families.”

The project was launched earlier this month at the San’s Integrated Cancer Centre Healing Garden. 2015 The Voice winner Ellie Drennan performed at the event.

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