Jemma honours her mother’s memory during Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Icon Writer / 28 Nov, 2023

Lung cancer is the fifth most diagnosed cancer in Australia. It’s estimated more than 14,700 Australians will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.

Brisbane resident, Jemma knows the devastation of lung cancer after losing her beloved mother, Marianne to the disease in January 2022.

“Mum was loved by so many people. Our friends were always welcome at our house growing up and they all felt that. She had a large group of friends, some dating back to school and some from her first job. So over fifty years of friendships,” recalls Jemma.

“She saw her GP who sent her for a chest x-ray. The radiologist saw fluid on her lungs and sent her to Greenslopes emergency, where she was admitted and had a chest drain inserted. They did biopsies and referred her to a respiratory physician. I was in hospital at the time having my eldest daughter, mum’s first grandchild. She was three days old when Mum received her diagnosis. Mum didn’t tell any of us about her diagnosis for another three weeks, as she wanted our family to enjoy the new baby. She’d gone into hospital for a video-assisted thoracoscopic procedure, and we knew then that there was something more sinister going on,” says Jemma.

Jemma says Marianne remained stoic throughout her cancer journey.

“She was always so positive about it, talking about how she was going to beat it. She never let on to my sisters or I if she was scared or how she was really feeling about it because she never wanted to worry us. We had asked for results after her procedure. She wouldn’t tell us in our group message, she wanted to tell us in person, so we knew then that it wasn’t going to be good news. It came as a shock to us. Many people assume, as we did, that lung cancer is a smoker’s disease. It never really occurred to us that a nonsmoker would get lung cancer,” says Jemma.

Marianne underwent treatment at Greenslopes Private Hospital, including radiation therapy at Icon Greenslopes.

Her initial treatment was with her oncologist at Greenslopes. Then when she developed brain metastases, she was referred to A/Prof Matthew Foote at Icon for radiation therapy. She felt positive after meeting him, he was very knowledgeable and factual about what to expect,” says Jemma.

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Jemma says Marianne’s outlook on life didn’t change during her cancer journey.

“She’d always had a busy and fulfilling life. Before her diagnosis, she and dad had started travelling. They loved river cruises in Europe and had some amazing trips. I think they would have tried to do more travelling, but COVID-19 hit, and they weren’t able to. I have so many fond memories of my mum that I don’t even know how to choose a favourite. My childhood was always a fun and happy one. As we all got older and more independent, we maintained our close relationship with mum. We’d go to events and concerts together. Family holidays at the beach were always a favourite,” says Jemma.

Marianne was passionate about sharing her journey to make others aware of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer. Her family are now continuing that legacy.

Most of what mum did to raise awareness was speaking to her family, friends and sharing information on social media, where there was a bigger audience. She went to conferences in Melbourne, she joined lung cancer support groups and met up with other people who were also suffering from it. Every year my family and I take part in the Lung Foundation’s Shine a Light Walk in Southbank. My cousin Jake often does triathlons or Iron Man competitions and raises money for the Lung Foundation. We recently held a fundraiser in her memory, where our goal was to raise money for the Lung Foundation and to raise awareness that this isn’t only a cancer that affects smokers, it can affect anyone. We raised over $50,000 in her honour. We all continue to talk about mum and what she went through and make sure people will always be aware of the facts surrounding lung cancer,” says Jemma.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a chance to promote lung health and cancer awareness. As signs and symptoms for lung cancer can be similar to other common conditions, it’s important to see your GP or healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms below. Discussing anything concerning with your doctor as soon as possible can help give you peace of mind and offer the best chance of successful treatment if you receive a lung cancer diagnosis. To find out more about the signs and symptom of lung cancer, visit

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