'You were the life and soul, Mum'
When Courtney lost her mum, she also lost her best friend. The two of them were as thick as thieves and did everything together, they even partied together. Courtney's mum Vivienne was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer after battling it once before. In a race against time, the inseparable duo made the most of they had left, going on days trips, holidays and nights out together.
We worked with Courtney and paid tribute to her mum by sharing her emotional and heartbreaking real life story in Bella magazine.
Courtney was just 12 when her mum Vivienne sat her down and told her she had breast cancer. ‘Are you going to die?’ she asked her mum. ‘Absolutely not,’ she replied firmly.
Courtney was an only child and her young, fun-loving mum was her everything. The two of them were thick as thieves and shared a connection that many of Courtney’s friends envied.
Vivienne, then 36, didn’t let the diagnosis define her and, after she had the lump in her armpit removed, carried on as normal - working every day while popping out to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy in her lunch breaks.
When Courtney’s parents split up, the bond with her mum was reinforced further. Luckily, the cancer was caught just in time and Vivienne got the all clear, leaving the mother and daughter to really enjoy their time together.
The two brunette beauties were like roommates and in between working and studying, they went on lots of girly holidays and nights out together. They loved getting tipsy together and were often getting mistaken for sisters, thanks to their similar features and mannerisms.
‘You get more attention than me!’ Courtney laughed, when her attractive mother was chatted up by handsome waiters abroad or young men.
They were the only people who could make each other laugh until they cried and made a pact to say ‘good morning’ and ‘goodnight’ every single day, even if they’d been bickering.
Then in February 2013, when Courtney was 20, they were hit with some terrible news - Vivenne’s cancer had returned. She had radiotherapy and the doctors remained optimistic, but in August that year it spread.
Suddenly there was an unspoken sense of urgency between the mum and daughter - they knew their close-knit relationship wasn’t going to last forever. They spent even more time together, making memories, enjoying afternoon tea, punting on the river, attending gigs and fancy restaurants, and and going on long drives together, stopping at random destinations whenever they felt like it.
Then as Vivienne’s 48th approached, knowing it would be her mum’s last birthday, Courtney organised a surprise party. She invited 80 of her mum’s closest friends and family, and organised a make-up artist for unsuspecting Vivienne who had lost her eyebrows and eyelashes.
‘I knew the next time all these people would be in the same room for Mum would be at her funeral, so I wanted to get them together before that – to allow Mum to really be a part of it,’ Courtney said.
On the big day, Vivienne walked into the room and her face lit up when faced with her guests, many of whom she hadn’t seen for years, singing her Happy Birthday.
‘The hugs were tighter and longer than usual because everyone knew it might be the last time they saw her,’ Courtney said. ‘Mum was truly the life and soul of the party. That night she forgot she was dying – because she was too busy living.’
Weeks later, Vivienne’s health began to deteriorate and after she and Courtney enjoyed one last holiday to Cyprus, she was hospitalised. ‘I’m on my way out,’ she warned her daughter.
‘At the end it was just me and Mum, just how we wanted it,’ Courtney said. ‘We didn’t leave each others’ sides and watched DVDs, ate McDonalds and drank tea. Then on our last day together, I held her hand and told her how much she meant to me before she slipped away.’
Vivenne died in January last year.
‘That day I lost my mum, my ‘sister’ and my best friend,’ Courtney said. ‘But what keeps me going is our memories and how much I have to live up to. Me and Mum were like two peas in a pod so I tell myself, if I can live up to be anything like her, that’s enough for me.’