'Hardest day of my life': Heartbreaking story behind professor's photo

·News Reporter
·4-min read

A photo of a boy hugging his mum has gone viral after the heart-wrenching story behind the conversation they had moments earlier received an outpouring of support. 

Dr Nadia Chaudhri, a 43-year-old neuroscientist and professor from Montreal in Canada, described May 11 the "hardest day of my life" because she had to tell her six-year-old son the heartbreaking news she was dying. 

The 43-year-old had been fighting stage three ovarian cancer for the past year and underwent a hysterectomy as well as multiple rounds of chemotherapy.

Last week however, she was told her cancer had returned, and there was nothing more doctors could do to save her life. 

Photo of Dr Nadia Chaudhri and her son hugging.
This photo was taken after Dr Chaudhri told her six-year-old-son she was dying from cancer. Source: Twitter/DrNadiaChaudhri

"Once ovarian cancer returns, it’s considered a terminal diagnosis. There is no treatment. You’re just buying time," Dr Chaudhri told Good Morning America.

In a post to Twitter on May 11, she announced she would later be telling her son she was dying from cancer, writing, "It’s reached a point where he has to hear it from me". 

"Let all my tears flow now so that I can be brave this afternoon. Let me howl with grief now so that I can comfort him," her tweet, which included a photo of them together, read. 

Dr Chaudhri later updated the post with a photo of her son giving her a hug, and revealed it had been taken shortly after she told him the news. 

"Our hearts broke. We cried a lot. And then the healing began. My son is brave. He is bright. He will be okay. And I will watch him grow from wherever I am," she wrote.

"Today was the hardest day of my life. Thank you for all for your love."

Mum explains details of her cancer to young son

Thousands of people responded, expressing their commiserations and sharing personal stories of how they too had lost family members to cancer. 

Dr Chaudhri explained her son was aware of her cancer and knew she had been receiving treatment, but until she told him, he didn't know the extent of its severity.

"My husband and I made the decision that we needed to tell our son what is going on because all the treatments are failing me," she told the publication.

"He already knew that I had cancer. He knew that I was still taking chemotherapy medication and trying to get better, but I don’t think he had a sense of how bad it is."

Since sharing her struggle online, Dr Chaudhri said she had received "a lot of validation" about the way she had chosen to keep her son included in difficult family discussions.

Among those to comment on Dr Chaudhri's tweet were several who encouraged her to take many photos and videos for her son to look back on.

"My mother was this honest with me about her cancer when I was your son's age. Her honesty and courage have had a lasting effect on me and those around her," one reply read. 

"Make videos for his future special days (graduations, weddings, first job, first break up) so he’ll be able to continue to feel your love, wisdom, sympathy and pride. Set up an email address for him, journal to him and provide him the username and password during one of your videos," another wrote. 

Some shared their heartbreak about not having an opportunity to ask their parents questions before they died. 

"When my mother passed away recently. I forgot to ask her what was her favourite colour? I had an idea but didn't come from her. I wish I would have asked her that simple question," one wrote. 

"I’m so sorry, my mum died when I was seven and nobody told me it was coming. I knew mummy was sick but I was always told she was going to the doctors to get better. The truth is she was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 14 months old. You are doing the right thing," someone else said. 

Dr Chaudhri shared the link to a fundraising page established to allow scientists to continue the research she was doing on drug addiction. 

She had no choice but to close her research lab in September due to her diagnosis.

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