During his university days, the most remarkable person Harry Stamateris met was a fellow student he took a shine to, a woman named Poppy.
They graduated in their respective physiotherapy and orthoptics studies and, after a brief engagement, were married in 1985. Today they run two childcare centres in south Sydney.
Nothing has dulled Poppy Stamateris’ shine since she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was wrestling with the kids on the floor and one bumped me in the breast and I felt a sharp pain,” Poppy explains.
“When I rubbed it I felt a hard lump … hard as a pebble. I felt a cold shiver up and down my spine because I knew this was something sinister at that very moment.”
After tests, Poppy’s doctor confirms he had second stage breast cancer.
“My initial reaction was to do all and anything possible to beat it,” she said.
“Yes I cried, but I pulled myself together. I love my children, my husband and my family very much, and the desire to be here for them gave me the strength to do what I had to do.”
Poppy said family and friends were told the news on a “need to know” basis because she wanted to shield her children from unnecessary questions.
She said her family’s love was her medicine. They all provided support in their own way. Mum cooked organic meals, her sister bought her clothes and never left her side, while Harry “was my ballast and my strength”.
Chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy, began in October 2012 and continued over a seven-month period. Her medication regime continues with tablets.
“I also chose to have my ovaries removed shortly after my treatment finished. I eat well, exercise regularly, and enjoy life that little bit more,” she said.
Poppy’s advice for others diagnosed with cancer is to stay calm, keep positive, exercise and talk to survivors about their experience.
The biggest fear, she says, is the unknown, so educating yourself by asking questions of medical professionals and disregarding information from those who are not is important.
“Buy a wig, wear makeup and dress well. And go out when you can and spend time with family and friends when you are well in between chemotherapy sessions,” she said.
Poppy’s reaction to her situation has been a revelation to her husband; so much so, that in June he wrote to family and friends explaining her inspirational approach.
“I have watched her get on with things,” said Harry. “‘Get on with it’ when she was suspicious of that lump. ‘Get on with it’ when she was diagnosed with cancer. ‘Get on with it’ for her family, her work, our home and her responsibilities.
“She represents so many loved ones and friends who have been touched by cancer.”
The message ended with the news that Harry and Poppy were in training for a 200km bike run on October 10, to raise funds for cancer research at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
You can back Harry and Poppy’s efforts by donating to the Little Darlings Child Care Centre Team at www.conquercancer.org.au