FOR 17-year-old Daniel Brimfield there are two things that helped him get through the loss of his mother, Maria, to breast cancer in 2018 – Canteen’s Good Grief program and the memory of cooking with her.
The West Hobart local was named the 2019 national ambassador of Canteen’s Christmas Appeal and has been sharing his story to raise funds for the Good Grief program and help young people through difficult times.
In 2013, Daniel came home from school to the news that his mum had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.
When the family discovered the cancer was terminal they started spending more time together, with their regular routine involving lunches with loved ones to cook, eat and make memories.
“I was in grade six at the time and from then on it just became part of life – I was young, so it became part of my growing up,” Daniel said.
“My parents made it quite easy in a way because normal life continued, it was something we dealt with and it became part of day-to-day life.
“As far as I was concerned that was okay because my mum was here, we were spending time together, we were laughing, we were eating, we were being a family, so it was just background noise.”
In 2018, Maria passed away and Daniel attended the Canteen’s Good Grief program, which was specifically desgined for people with bereavement in their family to make peer-to-peer connections and reflect on life and their loved one.
“I didn’t realise I needed Canteen because I thought I was dealing with it fine,” Daniel said.
“But Canteen is not something that you need when you’re in a really dark spot, it’s something that’s always there, it’s a constant and you realise its impact when you do need it.
“At school you’ve got your friends, but they don’t understand what chemo is, they don’t understand the different aspects of cancer and what it can do, what it is and what it looks like.
“It’s a really different connection that you make within Canteen, it’s peer-to-peer connections that you carry forward and look after because they’re important.”
Daniel said cooking with his mum was something he started to do to get close to her and make special memories.
“My mum was a chef and she owned two businesses in Hobart, so food was something I grew up with,” he said.
“I didn’t realise how special her food was until I grew older and we started cooking together.”
One of their favourite recipes was a tiramisu that Maria made in her café.
“We would make one if we were going somewhere or for special occasions, such as seasonal lunches we did with our friends,” Daniel said.
“The first season we did one without my mum I made a tiramisu, but didn’t think it was a big deal.
“When I put it on the table and started eating, I realised that it had more of an impact than I thought and that made me understand I had an ability to help others.”
Having led the cooking for his family Christmas in 2019, Daniel has raised more than $99,000 of his $108,876 goal to help send 129 people through the Canteen Good Grief program.
“Anyone who has lost someone realises how important the time together was, not just the specific milestones or events, but just the day-to-day things,” Daniel said.
Caption: West Hobart resident Daniel Brimfield, 17, was named the 2019 Canteen Christmas Appeal national ambassador. Pictured inset with his mother Maria, who passed away from breast cancer in 2018.