By Jack Brady
The past two years of hardship and pain her young family have faced seem an eternity away upon entering Sarah Litten’s home.
Mrs Litten’s youngest daughter Brooklyn is buzzing with excitement over her newly discovered pet mice found at the bottom of the family’s aviary.
Her youngest child and only son Eden meanwhile shows off his Batman costume, proudly crashing on to a mattress laid out on the lounge room floor.
It’s quickly made clear Mrs Litten, a brilliant wife and mother, is a lover and not a fighter.
But on the 25th June, 2010, she discovered she was in for an unavoidable battle for her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Now in remission, Mrs Litten’s concentration has shifted to preparing other ladies in their respective “battles” against the disease as the pioneer of the Port Stephens Women’s Cancer Support Group.
Mrs Litten was forced to rely on networks in Newcastle for the support she’s looking to introduce to female cancer sufferers in her local area.
“I helped establish [the network] here for a friend of mine. She had blood cancer and didn’t have any help at all, she didn’t have any support and that’s when I thought that Port Stephens needed a support group for all types of cancer,” Mrs Litten said.
“We are planning to help and teach people on how to help themselves. I just thought it would be nice to get everyone in the one place to learn about what is available and how to help your body after all it’s been through.”
Born in England, Mrs Litten moved to Australia with her husband Andy back in September, 1994.
Mrs Litten first met Andy in 1986 and nervously laughed about how she met him at a nightclub because that’s “how they were so meant to meet”.
Mr Litten laughed off any suggestion of fate as he proudly recalls “he was a bit of a douche” and joked how it wasn’t uncommon for the ladies to be chasing him.
Engaged after just six months, they married in 1991. Six years, and three kids later, they found solace in Anna Bay after moving between Ballarat, Stockton and even back to England for 18 months.
In 2007 their family was complete with the birth of Eden, the Litten clan were finally settled and living their dream life in Australia.
That was until 2010 when Mrs Litten’s fears about a bump underneath her arm was confirmed as breast cancer. The news shocked her family to their core.
“I knew I was in for the fight of my life straight away,” Mrs Litten said.
The cruel pain of her diagnosis was compounded by the fact her father Eric was dealing with incurable lung cancer.
As Mrs Litten recalled: “It was horrendous. I couldn’t even tell him about my diagnosis, Andy rang him and he just couldn’t believe it.
“I just knew I couldn’t break the news to them, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, to tell Dad when he’s laying there dying from cancer himself that I have it.
“I actually contemplated not even telling them and just going through with everything because I didn’t want to make things worse.”
At this point, Mrs Litten answered every question without hesitation. Even with Eden injecting himself into the interview by amusingly repeating his mother’s answers.
The possibility of tears being shed grew when questions shifted to the death of her father but true to her character she battled through.
Eric passed away in December, 2010, while his daughter was undergoing chemotherapy.
It prevented her from travelling back to England to attend the funeral in what she said was the lowest point of her life.
“I never want to be down that low again but from that I thought I had to carry on. I could have gone two ways: fall down in a heap and never get up or get on with it and fight it, and that’s what I did,” Mrs Litten said.
Adding insult to Mrs Litten’s already difficult cancer turmoil was the fact her husband was made redundant.
Mr Litten put it into perspective however.
“Redundancy was barely anything compared to what Sarah was going through,” he said.
“In hindsight, it was probably a good thing really because it gave me time off to help her out. I never missed any of her treatments or doctor sessions.”
Mrs Litten’s chemotherapy finished up on the eve of 2011, signalling a fresh start for the family following their year from hell.
Mr Litten said it led to a lot of “positives” for his family.
“I think Sarah’s learnt a lot, all the healthy stuff she now does and all the healthy stuff the family is now all doing,” he said.
“It’s led to her doing the cancer support network group which is a great thing.”
Litten now plans on sticking it to cancer through the Port Stephens Women’s Cancer Support Group.
The Port Stephens Women’s Cancer Support Group begun on May 15 and will run every third Tuesday of the month at Salamander Bay Natural Health Services centre.