Five children from Airds are about to face a future no child should have to – life without their mum.
Josiah, Cassie, Nathenial, Sami-J and Nelly lost their mother, Paula Dennis, to a tortuous battle with cancer on Monday.
Paula, a single mum, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. The cancer spread to her lungs, neck, adrenal glands, pelvis and elsewhere in her body.
In the weeks and months before her death at age 41, Paula was confined to a wheelchair. Josiah, 17, did most of the family’s driving. Cassie, 13, took up as much of the housework and mothering for her three younger siblings – aged 10, 4, and 3 – as she could.
Now the kids will be living with their uncle, David Dennis.
“David’s never had children before, it’s terrifying for him,” Lee Dennis, mother of David and Paula, said.
Paula and the children lived in social housing, so David will have up to two months to find somewhere else to live with the kids or have to reapply with the Department of Housing – a long and arduous process.
He is hoping to keep the family in Campbelltown.
“Mum and I already live in Ingleburn and I work in Ingleburn,” Mr Dennis said. “I need to get somewhere bigger because there’s going to be more of us now. I’m looking in Campbelltown, Bradbury, Leumeah – somewhere in that area.”
Sharon Robens, a family friend and preschool teacher for the youngest children, said Paula was an amazing mother and the family had already faced more than anyone should have to.
“Paula was a very determined and independent woman,” she said. “Josiah and Cassie are the most grown up children, who have matured far beyond their years. They dress the girls ready for preschool, doing their hair beautifully, packing lunch boxes and dropping them off for the day. Cassie told me that often the girls wake at night and crawl into bed with her because mum was way too sick.
“I hug them all and tell her she’s doing and amazing job that she really shouldn’t have to at 13.”
Ms Robens said Nate kept to himself at school and tried to ignore negative comments from others.
The teacher said a GoFundMe page had been set up before Paula’s death to raise money for the family and secure modifications to their house. On the page, Paula said she had “to make decisions regarding my babies that I don’t want to contemplate”. The money will now be used to assist the children in their transition to life with their uncle.