A Sydney woman has described the heartbreaking moment she learned her mother was dying after being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. She now has only days to live.
Natasha Kronfeld, from Queenscliff on Sydney's northern beaches, said her mum Catherine had been driving one day in July last year when suddenly she got a leg cramp, and the unusual feeling forced her to pull over.
"She had a strange feeling in her left leg, it was like something was pulling [it]," Ms Kronfeld, 36, explained to Yahoo News Australia. "She couldn’t drive at all and she just couldn’t walk properly. We took her straight to hospital."
Mother's heartbreaking diagnosis
Little did they know, the mother-of-two would never go home again and has remained in care ever since. After two months of testing, an MRI confirmed that Catherine had aggressive Glioblastoma — a tumour affecting the brain.
"When the neurosurgeon told us, I was with my mum and was just squeezing her hand so tight, "Ms Kronfeld recalled. "When he gave us the news, she basically just pulled me in and hugged me and we cried."
The 36-year-old said when she first learned her mum had just six months to live, she was "in shock and disbelief". Because of where the tumours were on Catherine's brain, doctors said they couldn't operate, making her condition terminal.
Just two weeks before her first leg cramp, she was dancing at her own mother's 90th birthday and showed "no signs of the terminal disease". "It was just a simple leg cramp," Ms Kronfeld said through tears. "We didn't expect that kind of news".
'She is not expected to live past January'
Ms Kronfeld, who has an older brother David, said her mother's condition deteriorated quickly and within a week of arriving at Concord hospital she started suffering seizures. They started in her leg before targeting her arm, and now they've left her partially paralysed.
Catherine, originally from Samoa, is bedridden and without feeling on the left side of her body. She has also gone through a round of chemotherapy and radiation, causing her hair to fall out.
"They were very clear it was not going to heal her but it’s going to give her that extra quality time," her devastated daughter explained. "Although [the therapy] has prolonged her life, she is not expected to live past January".
Siblings plan for life without their mum
Before Catherine's diagnosis, Ms Kronfeld gave up work at the Lifeline charity shop in Manly to be by her mum's side while her older brother David is working to support them both. She's also put her small business — Hampers from the Hood — on hold. The siblings are "heartbroken" to know they'll soon be without their mum and admit they're both "really struggling".
The 36-year-old has a bed set up next to her mum at a nursing home in Randwick where she chose to spend her remaining days. Ms Kronfeld sleeps there five nights a week to help ease her love one's pain. Luckily, Catherine didn't have any nausea or side effects from chemo — apart from losing her hair — and she remains positive and smiling, her daughter said.
"If you were to ask anyone who has ever been in mum's presence, they would tell you she [someone] you always feel good around. She has the kindest heart and a calming presence, her smile is contagious, and her love for her family and friends is unwavering," she said. "Even during this challenging time, her primary goal is to ensure her kids, family, and everyone around her are ok."
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Ms Kronfeld's best friend Stephanie to help raise money for the family as they begin funeral preparations. Catherine is trying to plan it herself, her daughter said, and asked everyone to wear pink — her favourite colour.
"My goal with this fundraiser is to ease some of the financial stresses on Catherine and her children so they can focus on being present and making the most of every second together," the GoFundMe reads. They also have family in London and Samoa who have flown to Sydney to be by Catherine's side.
Despite the tragic circumstance, Ms Kronfeld said she feels "so lucky and thankful" to have this time with her mum. "Six months ago she could have just gone then, so now I’m just enjoying the time I have to spend with her," she said. "I’m pretty sad all the time but I’m happy when I’m with her".
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