Jenna Bruton is an AFLW player for North Melbourne Football Club. Brain cancer has had a profound impact on her family, and this Mother’s Day she’s sharing her story to help find a cure.
Without mum, there is no way I’d be playing footy now. She’s has always been my biggest supporter, driving me to and from footy training in rural Victoria and making sure I had the best chance I could to be a success in the sport.
In my first AFLW season with the Bulldogs in 2018, we won the Grand Final, and this year, although my new team North Melbourne didn’t make the Finals, we had a fantastic inaugural season. I’m proud of my achievements, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am without mum.
That makes her brain cancer so difficult to deal with.
My aunt was diagnosed with glioblastoma in late 2015, and before then we’d never heard of brain cancer let alone experienced it within our family. Then, around one month later, mum’s health started deteriorating.
We never once thought she had brain cancer too. She started getting headaches and her vision was going a bit blurry, and she thought she just had a sinus infection. She went to get it checked out by our local doctor, who thought something was up. Then we were moved on to Ballarat Hospital where mum got an MRI. That confirmed what we thought was impossible; mum had a brain tumour too.
On Christmas Eve 2015, mum had brain surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and it’s been a rollercoaster journey since then. What really sucked was that mum’s diagnosis came at the same time as my footy career was just taking off, but I needed to be there for mum and I decided not to nominate that year. I think mum was more gutted than me, but there was only ever going to be one winner between footy and mum.
The radiation treatment mum had immediately after diagnosis was intense. It went for six weeks at a time, five days a week, at a hospital an hour away. When I got back from the three-hour round trip I’d go and help dad out on the property. It was an exhausting time, but I had to be there for both of them.
It’s been a tough journey for mum, especially in the first 12 months of her illness, but things have stabilised recently and that’s allowed me to get back into football. She’s had some complications, but she’s strong and doing well, as is my aunt. Their stability has allowed me to focus on my footy, and knowing that she’s watching, whether that’s from the sidelines or from home or from the hospital really spurs me on to perform.
Jenna in action for North Melbourne FC in 2019.
Doctors have told us that we’re more likely to win the lotto than have two brain cancer diagnoses in the family. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the lotto, but brain cancer has made us appreciate life much more, and not take every day for granted.
Days like Mother’s Day definitely take on extra significance for us now, and on Sunday we’ll be celebrating with her. She’s done so much for me and family, and by sharing my story and helping to raise funds and awareness for the cause, I hope that we can find a cure for this disease in future. We need a cure, for my mum Suzy, and for all mum’s diagnosed with this disease in the future.
Have a happy and healthy Mother’s Day.