Meet Camilla Kerslake
Following a turbulent few years that saw Camilla stepping out of the spotlight to become a full time carer to her mother subsequent to a breast cancer diagnosis, the twenty-seven year old soprano returns triumphant with her comeback single ‘Come Home’.
Here, Camilla speaks to ABLE2UK about the news which changed her life...
Hearing that a loved one has cancer isn’t something I’d wish on anyone, particularly when that person is your mother, best friend and only 50 years old.
What followed her initial diagnoses was a full mastectomy, reconstruction (from her own tissues) a second operation to repair errors from the first surgery and a list of procedures and complications as long as your arm.
As a family we were completely naive about the realities of living with, and recovering from cancer. We thought she’d be fine within a few months, but in all it took over 2 years.
For her reconstruction they took fat from her stomach as well as arteries from her abdominal muscles to form a realistic and warm new breast. Although it’s truly a medical marvel the repercussions of such extensive surgery meant she was virtually housebound for about 6 months and just as she started to turn a corner she had to be rushed back in for her second op.
Even more frustrating was that an autoimmune disorder trigged by her treatment meant she was hospitalised for weeks and unable to walk for months nearly a year on from her initial diagnosis.
As a 22 year old I never thought I’d be caring for my mother, particularly as she was so young herself. I didn’t fully understand at the beginning how all-consuming looking after someone who’s almost entirely incapacitated is. I can admit there were times when we both felt extremely low but I always used humour to cheer her up and would cook up fabulous feasts to lift our spirits.
It further bonded us enormously but the financial strain on my parents, whose income halved when mum’s diagnosis caused her to step out of the work place, and myself who was also unable to work, was fairly overwhelming. We’re not a wealthy family and I know my decision to stop work and care for my mother worried her. People said I was being foolish and my record label and agent promptly dropped me but honestly, if I could go back in time, I’d do it all again.
My only wish is that our family had been better educated about the support available for cancer sufferers and their careers. There are so many amazing groups out there and we found out after her recovery that she was eligible for incapacity benefit, which would have made such a massive difference to our quality of life.
We’re so lucky that her health is fully restored, for many the story is very different. Finally after nearly 4 years of care, charity fundraising and campaigning we’re both back to work, only now I try to split my time evenly between the people I love, my work and my charitable endeavours.
My family is forever changed, but I think, for the better. We’ll never take our health or each other for granted, we’re all far more generous of spirit and just generally grateful for every day we have together.
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