I am very fortunate. At thirty nine, I feel like I’ve loads of moments in my life when I was part of something really meaningful. For the most part they have frequently involved a group of people committing to something great and working hard towards achieving it.
March 1st and 2nd was added to this long list of rich experiences when I was co-captain of a team which walked 60kms to raise funds for the Peter Mac Cancer Centre. Our team of twenty nine people, including three cancer survivors (with one who is still presently undergoing intensive treatment trying to get to remission) raised nearly $71,000 dollars for research for women’s cancers.
The inaugural Melbourne Weekend to End Women’s Cancers saw 1401 walkers collectively raise 3.6 million dollars and this will allow the hospital where I will soon be undertaking my fourth surgery, to set up a program for women with advanced (stage IV) disease amongst many other great research initiatives. And although the weekend itself, won’t ‘end’ cancer, it is incredibly important for the survivors of cancer to walk the journey and important for family members and friends who have lost loved ones.
Here is a snippet of the weekend. Thankyou to our youngest team member Daisy, for capturing these moments from the weekend and putting together this video. You’re awesome!
There are too many magic moments to write about. So I will mention just a few.
It was a privilege to witness the bond of Mel’s family. The hilarious cousins, the ‘passionate’ mum and sisters, the caring brother, the proud father, the supportive uncles and aunts, the beautiful workmates and our friends who had all put their hand up and said to Mel and I through their actions “We will walk with you and we will commit to raising $2,000 so we can’t walk alongside you”. Many of those travelled large distances to be part of this walk and join “The Good Tittie Team”. The team name came about when Mel combined the name of our blogs, “I Got the Good Cancer” and “Shitty Tittie Bang Bang”. How our team came to fruition was documented by Mel here.
The gestures of love and support were indeed profound on this weekend.
Watching the strength of my friend who after seven months of chemotherapy and without yet being in remission was mind blowingly inspiring. Straight from her previous round of chemotherapy, Mel walked the majority of the first day’s 30km. When she needed to rest, there was no shortage of people to push her in the wheelchair, her brother, her cousins, her sister, her friends. Many took turns. Running down some narrow streets in Toorak with Mel’s brother and I pushing her in the chair and doing wheelies and inspecting the chair to see if we had damaged it is something I will never forget. Seeing the smile on her face throughout these days was an absolute highlight.
Despite the crippling pain in my feet from walking 60km’s on concrete and bitumen, for the most part, I throughly enjoyed moving on foot through some of Melbourne’s magnificent suburbs, passed mixed architectural eras, gardens and impressive fences and parks. Stumbling along the drink stands set up by children out the front of their houses, seeing pink ribbons tied to the fronts of fences or the slabs of water bottles left below a single flower tied to garden gates. Being cheered on by passers by, or having random women come up to us while walking and offer a hug and tell me they too are a cancer survivor, or they understand because have lost someone close. It’s pretty clear from the many responses from the public we had whilst walking that cancer bites deeply in our community.
There were several “This Is Your Life” type moments that caused me to burst into tears to the amusement of my friends.
The most touching and poignant occurred when I watched a granddaughter and grandfather come together on a bridge ahead of me and embrace and then walk hand in hand together. The granddaughter being Daisy, our youngest team member and her Grandfather. They each lost a incredibly special lady in their lives, a grandmother and wife, just the week before this walk to ovarian cancer. And here they were.
Likewise, the moment when I first saw my husband and children hiding behind a tree outside the National Gallery of Victoria also resulted in an outpouring of emotion. It’s been a long journey for us as a family. Having my five year old son walk parts of the course with us and seeing the excitement on his face of being part of the conversation as we trudged along was very special. On the final day he walked the final 10kms with me. This journey, has been his reality too.
Passing the entrance to the Peter Mac Cancer Centre and high fiving some of the medical and research staff was a bit special too. Anytime I go near the hospital it’s for treatment and there is a certain amount of anxiety associated with that. It was great to be freed of that, doing something positive and giving back. Giving back to one of the hospitals that shared the role of prolonging my life. This life.
Walking through a random street near Carnegie, we spotted two young woman casually sitting on a fence of an house. As I got closer I recognised them as students I taught back in 2003. They had come to walk part of the way with me and my team. Just a few hundred metres later, in the same street, appeared one of my all time, favourite teachers, my year eleven Economics teacher.
In the street walking with my team where three extra women. One I last saw in 1992, who was my teacher, and then two I taught in 2003 who were my students. A real “This is your Life” experience if ever there was! After tears, laughter and some filling in of the years between over lunch they said goodbye and on we went.
Just two kilometres from the 60km finish, in a small Melbourne park, our team came back together and there appeared another primary school friend who Mel and I had not seen in nearly 20 years. She lost her own mother to breast cancer many years ago. It was beautiful to hear her sweet voice after all of these years.
Late at night at the end of a long day of walking and long after all of my friends had gone back to their tents and hotels I was still wide awake. I looked at the dance floor and thought bugger it, I’m going to go and dance. The next thing I knew I was joined by Mel’s mum and sister and we boogied to the final song of the night. They won’t realise how special that moment was to me, but the symbolism of that gesture was truly special.
Catching up with our school friends was fantastic. The walk gave us many hours for conversation which is a rarity these days. There was loads of laughter and reminiscing about old times. There were also many new friendships that were solidified from the experience. Special thanks goes to Michelle, Josh, Anita, Annette, Sally, Jenny, Sarah, Haley, Naomi, Kristy, Lee, Renee and Jenny and to Mel’s extraordinary family for embracing me as one of their own.
It was an absolute privilege to be a part of this weekend, with these people, creating these memories. So I’d like to thank Mel for initiating the walk and inviting me to co-captain the team with her. And to everyone who walked with The Good Tittie Team, supported us or donated to us thank you. A tremendous effort by all. Together, we achieved something incredibly meaningful.