Dr Jess Nathan lost her beloved mum to brain cancer six years ago. Now she’s running the world’s toughest half marathon in the hope of giving other daughters more time with their mums.
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ― Jamie Anderson
Where to begin…
My mum, Patricia, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (brain cancer) in March 2017. Her illness was complicated by misdiagnosis, and a stroke during surgery in April, which left her paralysed on her left side and in need of full-time care. After six months of chemotherapy, the cancer stopped responding and the decision was made for end-of-life care. On New Year’s Eve, surrounded by her four children, husband, best friend, and fur-grandson, she took her last breath and left this life.
Since her death, I’ve often thought about how I can contribute to a cure. So, why now? On the 21st of April this year I became a mother, and I named my daughter Stella Patricia, in mum’s honour. I didn’t think it was possible to feel more loved by my mum, especially now she’s not around, and then I saw Stella, and love took on a whole new dimension that went beyond all notions I had of nurture, purpose, gratitude, and joy.
A few months later, while contemplating a gentle return to fitness, i.e., a flat, warm walk sometime in 2024, I serendipitously received an email from Carrie’s Beanies for Brain Cancer inviting me to join their Point to Pinnacle team and raise funds to support brain cancer research.
I immediately signed up for the world’s toughest road half marathon six months after having a baby to celebrate my renewed connection with a woman who embodied motherhood, who lived for her children, whose love knew no bounds, whose arms felt like home, and in whose loss, I lost part of myself, and miss like a phantom limb.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think through how I might train to climb Mount Wellington while still finding my stride in the daily marathon that is motherhood. Nor did I think through how painful it might be to share the story of how I lost my best friend. But my pain has a purpose – to remember my perfect mum and to raise money so that others might have a better outcome.
One Australian is diagnosed with brain cancer every five hours, and 80% of patients diagnosed with brain cancer will die within five years. Currently, there is no cure for brain cancer, and survival rates haven’t changed in 30 years. So I will stay the course, and on Sunday 19 November, put one foot in front of the other, all the way to the summit.
At best, this epic climb will be uplifting and restorative. At worst, it will be just over 1271m of ascending, gradients above 10%, and extreme changes in climate and weather conditions that together will “challenge the human spirit”.
The journey up the mountain will be bittersweet; no amount of money can bring Mum back, but maybe it can buy more time for another mother or daughter. I am so proud and grateful to be my mother’s daughter and comforted to know that she lives on in me.
Please dig deep, donate, and together we can make a difference.