Waking up on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to open my presents.
I was 14, and it was a special day for me, my dad Jonathan, then 42, and my half-sisters, Chelsea, nine, and Charli, two.
But there was one thing always missing – my mum Emma. With long blonde hair and an infectious smile, Mum was such a beautiful and selfless woman.
At 20 weeks pregnant with me, she was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer after visiting a specialist for pain in her elbow.
Devastated, she wasn’t willing to risk my life to save her own. So instead of having lifesaving treatment, she underwent radiation to help reduce the pain in her arm.
Working closely with doctors, she’d waited until she was 32 weeks along to give birth to me so I would be fit and able to survive.
Then, after I was born in May 1999, she underwent stronger treatment hoping to shrink the tumours.
But the cancer was terminal.
In March 2000 – just 10 months after I was born – Mum sadly lost her battle.
She was just 25.
Though he re-married and had my little sisters, Dad always made sure I knew how special Mum had been.
While he struggled to talk about her death in detail, he never hid what happened from me.
Referring to her as ‘Mummy in the sky’, he spoke about her with so much love.
Determined not to forget any of her special quirks, Dad even kept a notebook of facts for me.
Scanning the pages as a young boy, I learned things about my mum that most kids take for granted, like how she loved tomato sauce and always spoke in a baby voice.
Dad had also documented how much she loved to dance, play golf and paint.
Your mum was my hero, he wrote.
Before she passed, Mum took the time to prepare a special memory box for us, including photos and home videos she’d compiled.
She’d also written me letters for all of my birthdays she knew she’d miss out on.
Make sure you always tell the truth and think about other people’s feelings and you’ll go a long way, one note said.
Then, on Christmas morning 2013, after we’d opened our presents, Dad had another surprise for me.
‘I found this,’ he said, handing me a cassette tape.
Confused, I’d never seen one before.
But Dad quickly explained it was like a CD and led me to his car where he played it for me.
As the tape crackled to life, a soft and gentle voice took over.
It was Mum!
Recognising her soothing tone from the home videos I’d seen, tears filled my eyes.
‘My book is called My Cancer, My Miracle,’ she said. ‘I’d like to dedicate it to my son Spencer.’
Closing my eyes to take it all in, I felt as though she was sitting right there next to me.
My first Christmas with my mum, I smiled.
Absorbing every word, I learned that she had made the recording to help other cancer sufferers.
In the final stages of her own fight, Mum was no longer able to hold a pen, so she’d decided to record herself as a final message of hope to others.
Afterwards, Dad and I hugged for a long time.
‘Thank you,’ I cried.
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I realised it was up to me to carry on Mum’s legacy.
‘I’m going to transcribe her tape in the hope I can one day publish her book,’ I told Dad.
While I loved hearing her voice, the grief her absence caused me sometimes became too much to bare.
If only we could sit and talk over a cup of coffee, I thought sadly.
Still, I pushed through, determined to spread her message far and wide.
Then, the day before the book was set to launch in August last year, I was looking through photos of Mum when I found another letter she had written to me.
To my darling little boy Spencer. Who would have thought I would have such a perfect son? she wrote. Of all the things we did, having you was the best. Look after yourself and Daddy.
Incredibly, Mum’s book, My Cancer, My Miracle, then went on sale.
Gifting Dad a copy for Christmas, he could hardly believe it.
‘She would be absolutely beside herself,’ he said.
Following the launch, I connected with people from Mum’s past, including those who had gone to school with her.
‘She was a beautiful person,’ one lady told me.
It was so special to learn how many people she had touched in her short life.
Best of all, I decided that any profit made from sales would go directly to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation to help fund vital research.
Though there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of Mum, she guides me every day.
In October this year, my fiancée, Danielle, 21, and I welcomed our first baby, Lukah.
I wish Mum was here to watch him grow, but I know she’s watching over us all.
She made the ultimate sacrifice by choosing my life over hers and I’m determined to live one she would be proud of.