She came to visit me and my wife in 2003, you can see us messing about on the tourist attractions of Sydney.
We came from a family of business minded people. All my siblings and I owned our own business and Reena being the youngest wanted to follow suit. She later went on to owning and running a Post Office in Birmingham after she had qualified with a Degree and a Masters in Business from Bristol University.
I got married in Australia on the 20th Jan 2007. My family, and soon to be in laws, all flew over from the UK but unfortunately Reena couldn’t attend due to work commitments.
She would tell me off for saying this but she was a Mummy’s girl. She rang us from the UK, 2 days before the wedding, complaining of stomach ache. I told her she should stop bugging Mum at the age of 26 and go to the doctors!
After the wedding my parents went back to the UK only to find out that Reena was unwell and all they knew was it had something to do with her ovaries. They kept what was happening to themselves as not to worry me overseas.
After we came back from our honeymoon, I had no idea what was going on at home in the UK. Weeks went by and then Reena rang me. She was upset and explained what was going on and what had been happening. I now knew there was something serious happening. I confronted my parents, asking why they hadn’t told me anything. Being the ignorant Indian family they only thought Cancer happened to smokers.
The reason Reena was so upset on the phone was that the doctor said the pain was caused by her Ovaries so they had to be removed. They said she would not be able to have children after the operation, she was devastated by this news. At first I was silent as was unsure how to console her but then tried to make her feel better by telling her there were other options available to her, maybe adoption ?
The operation was scheduled that week but unfortunately she caught pneumonia and due to having medication for that they could not operate on her ovaries. Again my parents were not telling me the whole story at this point so I was unaware of how aggressive the cancer was. One week later I got a call from my Dad telling me to get home on the next flight.
My long journey home mainly consisted of 31 hours of anxiety. After landing I headed straight for the hospital. When I got to the hospital I was in complete shock. My sister lay there looking very frail and gaunt with tubes, machines and lights all around her. A very different sister from the one I saw in 2003. The first thing she said to me, and I’ll never forget was “See, it wasn’t a stomach ache”. You can imagine how I felt.
I stayed with her most of the day. The doctors were trying all they could but the cancer was not shrinking. They started a different type of radiation on the Sunday, hoping for some results during the night. On the Monday morning 7 am, we got a call asking for one of us to come to the hospital. I got there quickly and Reena was put in her own private room. Not a good sign, I thought.
My parents followed and we stayed with her all morning. I told my parents to go home to get some lunch at 1:30pm, and suggested we could then swap and I would go. They agreed and left, I stayed with Reena. I was wiping her forehead with a cold cloth as she was really hot. She was falling in and out of sleep. Then started calling out to a nurse who had been with her over the last few weeks. “Nancy”. I instantly reacted and got Nancy and bought her to Reena’s room. Reena gave her the thumbs up and smiled.
Within 48 hours of my arriving she died in my arms at 2:15pm on Monday 14th May 2007. That few minutes to this day still play clearly in my head like a broken record. After trying to compose myself I had to ring my parents. The rest of that day was pretty much a blur. I remember coming home that afternoon and going to her room. Her possessions were all in her room and around the house. She came to this earth with nothing and left with nothing.
My sister Reena, was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in late March 2007 and past away 6 /7 weeks later ( in the UK ). Her death was a shock to us and all the community of Birmingham. She was a strong and stubborn soul, but a big softy at heart. She did anything for anyone and always put herself at the back of the queue.
7 years on my father has accepted her death and has dealt with it in his own way. My mother still believes her daughter will pull up in the driveway and come home.
I stayed in the UK for 5 weeks but I had my own life and responsibilities in Australia to worry about also. Leaving my parents to come back to Australia was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I vowed I would do everything I could to keep her memory alive and raise awareness for Ovarian Cancer in Australia.
Over the last 7 years we have raised over $40,000 for Ovarian Cancer by jumping out of a plane, running the City to Surf and even completing True Grit.
I am lucky I have a great wife who supports my mad fund raising ideas and events and has even taken part in one or two of them herself and some amazing friends who have always been there for me.
I believe, if I keep raising awareness of Ovarian Cancer, it may just help one person or one family who have also been touched by this terrible disease. I know I will never get my sister back but if I can help or listen to just one person then I have done my duty in the name of my sister Reena.
Reena, you died so young, but you touched many lives. I am sad you never got to meet my son your nephew Reid, who you would just have spoilt rotten. We never got to see you have a family of your own, but I do, and will always, love you and I promise I will always keep your memory alive.
Two articles in the Newspaper after her death