Dealing with the C word

09.06.14 | Posted in General

Last November, as I was giving my eldest daughter Milla a cuddle (then four years old), I noticed a lump on her neck. The next day my husband took her to the doctor. This led to a series of tests at the Sydney Childrens’ Hospital, all of which came back normal, until a few months’ later when I noticed the lump had grown significantly.

Worried, we took her back to the hospital and over the course of the following weeks, Milla had a biopsy and numerous tests and scans done. The results came in and our worst fears were confirmed with a cancer diagnosis. She has Hodgkins lymphoma.

The last few months have been incredibly confronting, and it’s without a doubt the most stressful experience I’ve ever been through. Milla has been through two rounds of chemotherapy, and navigating all that comes with this has left our family paralysed at times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished with all my heart that it was me going through this, and not her.

Milla and Captain Starlight

However, we’re coping by using the same formula that we always do – by trying to find the beauty in it, and by trying to be in service to others when we can. Milla has often been by the bedside of other kids, laughing with them and trying to cheer them up. And the other night we brought in a stack of food and snacks and asked the nurses to wheel them around and offer them to the other patients and their families on the oncology wards.

Another way we’ve coped is to reach out to friends and family who have been so generous and have showed an extraordinary capacity for love. Our gorgeous friend Jerusha Sutton who photographed my last birth and also did a family shoot the day before we started treatment, captured one of Milla’s chemo sessions about a month back. We hope to be able to use her stunning images to help other families going through similar experiences. Since that treatment, Milla’s hair has all but fallen out, and she’s puffy and has put on a lot of weight from the steroids, but I know my little spirited girl is still in there, and will be back soon.

Milla and chemo treatment

Last weekend was a happy time as we celebrated Milla’s fifth birthday, and again Jerusha was on hand to take pics of the ‘Frozen’ themed party.

mummy and milla frozen

I’d like to honour my team at Business Chicks who have been so gentle and supportive of me, shielding me from things I haven’t needed to know about while I’ve not entirely been myself, and stepping up to keep the wheels turning. I’d also like to honour my husband who has found strength and a sense of humour and practical solutions when I haven’t been able to. And both our families whose love and concern for Milla equals ours.

We really hope we’re nearing the end of this journey for our family, and know that we can get Milla on to a path of complete wellness and strength. We suffered a small setback on Friday, and we’ve been at the hospital since. While you’ve all been enjoying a long weekend, we’ve been cooped up here in an isolation room! As it happens, the Sydney Children’s Hospital is holding one of their annual fundraisers – the Gold Telethon – today. They’re trying to raise $4.5million. We’ve gotten behind this with a donation, and I’d love for you to too. If you feel compelled, here’s the link:



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  1. Tina

    Sending love to all of you Em. Massive big tight squeezy hugs xx
    Just as you could feel the power of your tribe around you when you birthed, you should feel it now in a huge way. The candle’s burning gorgeous.

  2. Jasmin Tragas

    Sending you one very big hug Emma. So sorry to read about what your family is going through. Hoping for a very positive outcome soon xx Milla seems to be an extraordinary individual, just like you :)

  3. Bec Bodman

    You’re all so very special – only you Em would use this experience to help others. Lots of love xx

  4. Emma

    Thanks lovely – it’s the fastest and easiest way to feel better! xxxx

  5. Samantha Fieliciano

    I didn’t realise Milla was sick, I’m so sorry to hear Emma. I can only imagine the stress and worry that you are living during this time. I hope she is better in no time, thoughts and healthy vibes being sent your way. xxxx

  6. Emma

    Thanks wonderful Jasmin. Feeling loved and supported and making sure all that love and support is reaching the little cherub, so we’ll be fine. You wouldn’t believe how she’s coped with this – resilient doesn’t even begin to describe it!

  7. vanessa

    Hey Love Face,

    Keep strong. Big hugs and much love to you and Milla xxx

  8. Samantha McDonald

    Oh, Emma… I had no idea! And your post has me in tears.
    What can one say??
    I am sending you and your family an abundance of love.
    Stay strong, beautiful lady xxxx

  9. Emma

    Love comes in so many forms Sam! Sometimes words aren’t needed!!!! Sending it back to you too xxxx

  10. Megan Carmody

    Dear Emma and Family
    As a premium business chicks member I actively follow the Business Chicks social media pages and of course, yours. Since I joined last year I have been inspired and motivated more and more by the determination and energy you and your team have.
    I have read this blog post and only see this as another challenge for you and your family to overcome – and you will. Sending positive thoughts and best wishes at this difficult time and of course, a super speedy recovery for your little girl.

  11. Emma

    Thanks so much Meg. I absolutely believe that we’ll get through this, with thanks to people like you around! We feel blessed to have the support of so many positive people, which is most likely why I don’t have much time for people who want to bring others down ;) Life’s too short! Much love, and thanks for your ongoing support.

  12. Sophie

    Sending you all armfuls of hugs and healthy vibes. I hope things get better soon. Thinking of you xxx

  13. Catherine Healey

    Sending love & strength to you & your family Emma & hope to hear your little girl has been given the all clear real soon x

  14. julia bickerstaff

    Massive love to you ALL. You’re amazing Em. In the midst of the toughest time for your family you’re thinking of others. HUGS xxx

  15. Alison McGrath

    I can only imagine the highs and lows you are going through at the moment Emma.Stay strong and positive. I wish you, your beautiful Milla and the rest of your family much love and happiness.

  16. Jessica Onsongo

    Hey Queen,
    I can hardly imagine what you are going through. All I can say is God is in control and hope he gives your family strength at this time. Sending you a big hug and much love. Hope that my little princess Milla gets back to be herself soonest. Love to the whole family. Jessxxxxx

  17. Candice Egan

    I can’t stop crying Em – I am so upset by this news…. Love you guys so much and thinking and praying for you all xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  18. Robyn Jones

    Oh goodness Em, I’d no idea – you do an amazing job holding it all together! Milla’s so lucky to have you both as parents, and such wonderful support and care around her, I’ll definitely be making a donation. Sending lots of love and positive thoughts your way xxx

  19. Michelle Falzon

    Emma, sending oceans of love to you and your beautiful family and especially your incredible little girl, Milla. Here’s to a swift recovery x Much, much love, Michelle x

  20. Mardi

    Poor little Darling, what a horrible thing to be dealing with. I can’t imagine what you are all going through. Milla will pull through if she has your determination Emma. Sending love to Milla and your family. Good luck with the rest of the treatment.

  21. Dene

    Sending you and your family love and strength. May Milla be through the worst..And sunny days are ahead. Xxx

  22. Nicole

    Sending love and light to you and your beautiful family Em. Your beautiful girl obviously has the same wonderful caring qualities as her mum. Hoping with all my heart that Milla gets stronger each day and back to that spirited little girl of yours. Hope to give you a hug soon xxx

  23. Cathy

    Thinking of you all and sending love from the rainforest. Milla, Honey, Indi with Row and Steve can go frog hunting again. We’ll collect fairy wings from the waterfall and then I’ll make you chai while we sit on the verandah and contemplate that perfectness of life.

  24. Jacinta

    Em, a journey that nobody should have…but one that you have enough strength, support and pure love to face. I am forever amazed at the resilience of kids and I am sure that all of your girls have your limitless strength to live a long and amazing life. Love and light
    J x

  25. Jo

    Dearest Emma, what a truly inspirational daughter, mother and family. I had absolutely no idea… Sending you and Milla big hugs and very best wishes for a speedy recovery xx

  26. Petrina Buckley

    Darling Milla! Boy did you land in the right family, angel. Sending you all love and good health. You’re amazing and strong (and off-the-charts-inspiring). Much love xxxxx

  27. Kristina Gram

    Brings a tear to my eyes and a lump in my throat. Thoughts of you and your beautiful daughter moving on to wellness. Onwards and upwards x

  28. Suzanne Acteson

    Em, I’m so sorry to hear but know that your strength and determination will help your little girl and even though you don’t feel it at times, it will hold your family together. I’m sending all the love and prayers your way and know she can do it. Going to donate now, very worthy cause.

  29. Seni Waqa

    Emma Business Chicks has greatly inspired me personally in my life. We pray for a speedy recovery for Milla. Thank you for allowing us to stand by you and your family through this challenging season in your lives. Get well soon Milla oxo God ble

  30. Kristina Gram

    Brings a tear to my eyes and a lump in my throat. Thoughts with you, your family and your beautiful girl getting there to wellness. xx K

  31. Emma

    I thought of you today J! There was a note in the parents’ room in the hospital for discounts at Anytime Fitness Randwick and I thought “What a woman!” Love and light back at you too xxxx

  32. Emma

    It’s all so unbelievably perfect and complex at the same time darling. Chai on your verandah soon for sure (and you can give me back that baby dummy from last time …)

  33. Emma

    We’re ok honey. In a strange strange way it’s been a beautiful blessing and gift. Please don’t be upset or sad for us. We’ve got this ;) Love you xxxxx

  34. Donna Meredith

    Oh Hun. Sending oceans of love and healing energy Millas way and to you and your precious family. In love and light. Xxoo

  35. Natasha

    Oh Em, so sorry to hear this. Praying hard for your little girl and your whole family for strength and peace. Thanks for bravely sharing, Take special care x

  36. Julie T

    So sorry to hear your gorgeous girl is going through this Emma! To hear of your families positivity, love & support is so inspiring. I’ll be giving my boys some extra cuddles in the morning and I hope Milla doesn’t have anymore setbacks on her road to recovery xx

  37. Renee Opperman

    Oh Emma, tears in my eyes, I had no idea. You and your family are simply amazing! Little Milla looks like an absolute trooper. Massive love and hugs. x
    Oh and by the way, your post last week on ‘watering the tall poppies, ‘ %$*^ em ! Gosh there are some Nasty Pasties in this world. You are such an inspiration to many, you should be so proud of what you have achieved. We all are.

  38. Diana

    Gorgeous, you are a Wonder Woman and Milla is so lucky to have you as her mum! You’re all going to pull through this, and Milla will be back to herself soon. Sending you love and strength and lots of hugs and kisses. Please let me know if you need anything at all xox

  39. Catherine Cervasio

    Emma thank you so much for sharing. Whilst having been through ultrasounds, scans, biopsies and surgery myself over the years – the results, thankfully, have all been benign. I now, however, find myself nurturing a long-time employee through breast cancer. Whilst I’ve always believed my business is here for far more than ‘providing a product’, it’s evident now more than ever, as my place in her life is far more than merely ’employer’. She is only at the beginning of her journey. Thankfully you are nearing the end. Wishing you love and light xx

  40. Dawn Piebenga

    Darling Milla, when you crossed the rainbow bridge you reminded us all to be grateful for every moment that we have together with friends and family… so much love going out to you, Honey, Indie, Rowan and to you too Em! Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to support you!

  41. Elissa King

    Love and prayers to you and your family Em
    Love Brendon, Elissa & Caitlyn xo

  42. Paula Judd (Nunn)

    Emma, I had the pleasure of working with Rowan, Barb and Mark a few years ago … and witnessed your full bloom through your pregnancy with Milla and into motherhood. You have been, and continue to be an inspiration to many women, all of whom I am sure are behind you now sending warm wishes, positive thoughts and lots of support. I would like to offer the same, with lots of love to you all. Xxx

  43. Dee

    Emma, I went to your BLOG to leave a comment of encouragement in response to your latest BC newsletter. Your newsletters could be less elitist, rather honest, inspiring and sharing your thoughts and insights with others… please don’t let the Tall Poppy killers get you down.
    But in my attempt to leave this comment I discover something much more important about you, the very tortuous journey you and your family are going through with Milla. MY sincere thoughts and positive wishes goes to you and your family as you RECOVER from this very personal set back x

  44. Nicole

    I couldn’t help but read this brave article. It’s amazing, shows how much love there is around all of you no matter where and that you need to treasure and value every minute of family life. Lots of thoughts to you and Rowan x

  45. Anna

    Hi Emma, Milla is the same age as my daughter who also underwent some traumatic times in hospital. I sense you have found a way to draw strength from one another which can in some strange way bring incredible endurance. She is lucky to have you as her mother and no doubt she is your beautiful angel. Sending love and a warm thank you for sharing something so personal and heartfelt. PS and a huge bunch of poppies ;) xx

  46. Cathy

    Emma – so sorry to hear, I could feel your pain… Love & hugs from the Business Chicks community to Milla, you & your family. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  47. Kate Weiss

    Oh Em – I am just teary – it is just heart-wrenching to see your child go through anguish – they are so innocent and it just doesn’t seem fair.
    I know that you are strong, but also give yourself the permission to be weak and to lose it and to be human.
    If you ever need to talk, please pick up the phone.
    Sending you a huge hug and I will be thinking of you in my daily quiet time.

  48. Bernadette Jiwa

    Em, that photo of Milla determined face, wand in hand says it all. She’s just like her mama—soft and strong. Thanks for making us more grateful today. Lots of love xox B

  49. Pascale

    Not sure if previous comment went through – let’s try again!
    The essence was that I don’t know how you managed to find the beauty in this situation. I’ve been thinking about it all day since I read the post. Your determination plus Milla’s tenacity are inspiring. Off now to give my little princess a big hug xx

  50. Nicole Underwood

    Emma …. thinking of you and your beautiful family.
    Sending love & light.
    If there is anything I can do….please reach out.


  51. Melissa Browne

    You always have such grace , strength and humility Em and this shines through even more through this. Wishing the gorgeous Milla a speedy recovery. She absolutely rocked that party dress! xx

  52. Rebecca Wallace

    Em, I was so sorry to hear, sending lots of love and prayers to Milla and your family xx

  53. Kylie Bishop

    My dear friend Em, know that we all stand alongside you, strong, steady and positive. Together dreams come true. I LOVE the birthday photo, my heart melted just a little. See you again soon. K x

  54. Leanne Haining

    Emma I have spent the weekend “offline” so had no idea what you & your family have been going through. I am sending you & your family an enormous abundance of love & positivity from all of my family. Milla has picked a beautiful mother, who I know will nurse her back to full health. You are the most amazingly beautiful soul & I know she is in the best hands. Please let me know if there is anything at all that I can do for you & your little girl. Thank you for sharing your honest story with us. You & Milla are a true inspiration Xxxx

  55. Nicole

    I couldn’t help read this brave article – shows how much family means and to spend every waking minute all together with great love and support. Sending lots of positive vibes to you, Rowan and rest of family.

  56. Karaline Loiterton

    Emma I’ve been deeply moved reading your post. I cannot begin to imagine your and Rowan’s journey but am truly inspired by your words of strength and your ‘honouring’. How you begin to look for beauty in this is awe inspiring. I am sending so much love to you both. Xxx

  57. Louise Aubusson

    You are an inspiration to many. I admire your ability to communicate and involve so many people in your experiences even when they are tough ones.

    Hoping the love and support gives you the extra strength you need right now and that your beautiful Milla is back to 100% health in no time.

  58. Alys

    Sending your whole family positive vibes and huge hugs. I work for the Leukaemia Foundation so I also wanted to say thank you for bravely sharing your story (it takes more courage then people know to talk about these things). Hearing from others who have been through a similar journey can be very comforting so do not doubt you will have helped people without knowing it with this post. xxxx

  59. Melanie

    Emma – I had no idea you and your precious family were going through such a dreadful experience. So typical of you to look for the light and want to make it better for everyone else! Much love and strength to you all – you will get through this. xxx

  60. Melanie

    Emma – I had no idea that you and your precious family were going through such a terrible time. My love and strength to you all especially little Milla – you will get through this. x

  61. Catherine brooks

    My absolute love goes out to you and your family Emma. Your husband especially – what an amazing partner and friend to you during this time. Our health is everything, and I’m hoping you and your darling girl are getting lots of rest. All my love to you xxxx

  62. Deborah Claxton

    You could not ask for a better present than spending time with your beloved family. Emma wishing you a wonderful birthday and enjoy some well deserved time out. Thinking of you with love from Deb and the team and Claxton Speakers xx

  63. Rosalie Gummer

    I have only just read your blog. I hope your daughter is feeling better. My prayers are with you and your family.

  64. Julie Green

    It has been three months since you wrote this but I want to send my love and light to you and your family, with hope you are through the worst of it but if not you know you’re strong and will conquer this.

    You give so much to others. You give through your presence, attention, spirit, business, and daring to go the extra mile. I met you today and will always remember it; you are a leader and I am sure I will always look up to you. Thank you for bringing thousands of people together, many of whom make me see a new world of brilliance, a beautiful kind of human indeed.

    Thank you for being you Emma, you’re fearless and special. It isn’t easy to deal with the C word and I wish your family love and health.

    Love Julie Green

  65. Julie Green

    I don’t know if my comment came through but I wanted to say it has been three months since you wrote this and my hope is that you’re through the worst of it. I send my love to you and your family.

    You give so much to others and you’re an incredible spirit with a presence and fearlessness I admire and aspire to.

    It was a blessing to meet you today and to be surrounded by such incredible women and men, doing good things for the world.

    Thank you. You are strong and you will conquer this, like everything else you have in your life and I wish your family much love and light, again with hope for only the best outcomes and best wishes for number 4 too.

    My love,
    Julie Green