Young woman juggles school and work while looking after mum
Genoveva-Constantina Stuparu's teachers were humbled to learn what lay behind her year of excellent grades, becoming school captain and working part-time to save money - the 17-year-old was also the main carer for her very sick mum.
Two years ago when Genoveva's Mum, Mariana, started feeling uneasy on her feet, a doctor's appointment changed their lives forever.
Mariana was diagnosed with early stage Parkinson's disease, and her daughter had to grow up quickly to take care of her Mum.
"I used to come home to a home cooked meal every day and now … when the person you love most goes from fine to unable to look after herself it heartbreaking," Genoveva said through tears.
A typical day in the life of the Rooty Hill teenager starts at 5.30am, when she wakes up to pray before getting her mum and two siblings ready for school, her dad often already out driving trucks before the sun rises.
When she comes home from school it's straight back to sorting dinner, cleaning the house and taking her mum to any doctor appointments before heading to her night retail shift.
"I'm always on the go, I'm always busy … within five days we had seven doctors visits earlier this year," she said.
Genoveva said the toughest part of the diagnosis was her mother's quick physical decline.
"Seeing her not being able to move the way she used to, I miss seeing her healthy … not seeing her how she used to walk and not be energetic, it's the little things people take for granted when they're with their families," she said.
"We went dress shopping the other day and that's something I used to always do with mum, but now she can't stay in the shop for too long because of all the noise and she gets dizzy. Not having her with me for the little things impacts me a lot."
Instead Genoveva has become her mum's right hand, always there to help her mum with day to day tasks.
Apart from teachers, most of her peers at school don't know the struggle behind the scenes.
"I kept it mostly to myself … I put a mask on and hide what I'm going through, but those who do know are really supportive."
Being exposed to so many health care professionals through her mum's care has led Genoveva down the path of science, with her teachers stunned at the way she has excelled despite her struggles.
Biology teacher Clare Melville nominated Genoveva for a Victor Chang school science award to help her get a foot into a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career.
"It's amazing she finds time to do everything … this is something she thought she could manage on her own and not let anyone in," Ms Melville said.
For Genoveva the Victor Chang award is just the first step in her pursuit of a career in health, and she hopes once day to be able to help people just like the doctors that help her mum.
Originally published as Teen juggles school, work while looking after mum