By Luke Voogt
Barwon Heads’ Susan Cauchi lived with two “benign” brain tumours for six years before hearing the words which shook her to her core.
“My last MRI showed significant growth and the doctors told me to prepare for surgery,” the single mother said.
“It’s taken me six months to work through those four words.”
But a scenic Harley ride on the Great Ocean Road has “restored her confidence”.
“I came away feeling ready to take on what’s ahead,” she said.
Susan joined 120 people (including volunteers) at Peace of Mind’s family retreat on the Surf Coast on the weekend.
Her son Max went with her, a day after turning 12, making the weekend even more memorable.
Her “petrol head” son enjoyed activities including jet skiing, muscle car rides and outdoor cinema, although he was initially reluctant to get on a Harley.
“My son was absolutely terrified – he was convinced he was going to fall off. But (The rider) showed Max how to put his hands out and he did that all the way back home.”
“These are all things my son has been busting to do, but as a single mum it’s a bit out of my capability.”
Susan’s 68-year-old thrill-seeking mum Laura travelled from Sydney for the event.
“(Riding on a Harley) been one of her bucket list things for as long I can remember,” Susan said.
“She says she’s going to come back as a biker in the next life.”
“We left there with sore faces from smiling so much.”
Susan has been on “watch and wait” for five years, but recent tumour growth has put her life in danger.
The 47-year-old will undergo her final assessment before surgery on 27 February.
She said one tumour was “an easy fix” but the other was entangled with her sagittal sinus, which drains blood from the front of the brain.
“If they nick that they can’t stop the bleeding.”
A number of terminally-ill patients attended the weekend, including a five-year-old girl from South Australia, whose family Trek Hardware helped sponsor for the weekend.
“For them to have that precious time with their families and to run around with other children in the same position is just fabulous,” Susan said.
Werribee and District 4WD club ran many of the activities, incuding off-road action, and cooked breakfast.
“Those guys don’t need an excuse to go camping – they love it!” Susan said.
“It’s awesome to know people would want to do something like that with us.”
Peace of Mind is a Geelong charity which supports people with brain cancer. It will host a women’s retreat in October.