JUST three months after the birth of her son, Leanne Russo noticed lumps in her left breast.
With mastitis common for breastfeeding mothers, it was only when one developed in her armpit that she and husband Gary grew concerned, thinking it may be an infection.
Her diagnosis of a rare and aggressive breast cancer in May, 2013, came as a shock to the Madeley parents, who just months before had been celebrating the arrival of their second child.
Leanne lost a tough two-year battle with the disease in February this year at the age of 36.
Fellow St Luke’s Catholic Primary School mums, family and friends have since rallied to launch Leanne’s Wish, raising about $20,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation at the Mother’s Day Classic.
They look likely to raise another $30,000 for The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research with 14 walkers to tackle the 2016 Perth Weekend to End Women’s Cancers in her name.
Despite aggressive treatment of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery after a diagnosis of stage three triple negative inflammatory breast cancer, Gary said Leanne’s health quickly spiralled in September last year.
Leanne was told of secondary cancers in her bones and lungs and at the end of October was diagnosed with leptomeningeal disease, causing headaches and other neurological symptoms.
“It was tough; she got very sick very quickly and then we ran out of time,” Gary said.
“From there moving forward, she found it very hard to face the reality and I don’t blame her. It’s too hard to confront at that age with so much to live for.
“The surprising thing was the progression and all the things that cascaded and went wrong when she was really healthy and young.
“There’s no sense in it, there’s no way to rationalise it, it shouldn’t have happened and it has and it’s just terribly sad.”
He said both he and Leanne shared the desire to help others in their situation and Leanne’s Wish had given him and their children Ilana (5) and Jaden (2) that opportunity.
“It’s really sad that a mother in her prime has to endure what (Leanne) did and the kids are missing out on their mother from the age of babies,” he said.
“(Leanne’s Wish) is a good tribute. She was never one for attention or a scene but I think she’d be really proud that her loss hasn’t been in vain.”
Family friend and school mum Natalie Pearsall said Leanne’s story had touched many.
She said their next event would be held for children on Thursday, with all money raised going towards their Perth Weekend to End Women’s Cancers fundraising efforts.
It will include craft activities, face painting, balloon twisting, raffles, Old McDonalds Farm, a bouncy castle, a sausage sizzle and more.
Three sessions will be held at the Meerilinga Children and Family Centre, 48 Peregrine Drive, Kingsley from 9-11am, 11.30am-1.30pm and 2-4pm and costs $15 a child (2 and under free).
Email email@example.com to book a place or visit Leanne’s Wish on Facebook for more.