My memoir is called Hardest Words. Read the synopsis here.
Yesterday I received a letter from the Australia Day Council informing me that I had been nominated for Australian of the Year! How awesome is that! I was really touched that the nominator/s thought I deserved such recognition for the fundraising I did. “You did a good thing,” Ash said.
I didn’t get progressed through to the state level, but it’s still really cool that I got nominated. I’ve nominated two people in the past and I know how much effort can go into the process, so I’m really flattered that the people who nominated me took time out of their busy lives to do the paperwork and send it in.
The hike I did continues to touch my life in many ways, which isn’t really something I thought about when I decided to do it. For example, I used the fitness I gained while hiking to start running when I returned home. I’ve become extremely fit since then and have lost almost 15kg since I embarked on the hike in 2016. I’m really proud of this because I always hated running. Even as a kid I struggled to run even 50 metres and was forever getting called over first in red rover because I was an easy tag. I’m still slow, but who cares! I can run 15km now without stopping. Ultra marathon here I come!
I’ve decided to stop fundraising now. I didn’t meet my $20 000 target, but I think I did a pretty good job raising the money I did. Fundraising was much harder than I expected and not everyone was supportive. Some people do actually say no or don’t care when you tell them that you’re fundraising for cancer, but the most difficult thing about that is when it comes from people who know you and know you’ve had cancer. It’s hard to swallow when it comes from your own community and from people who are meant to care about you.
One of the hardest things about having cancer was the loss of relationships. Some of my family turned their backs on me and still don’t talk to me, and my best friend and her family, who I thought loved and cared about me unconditionally turned their backs on me also. At that point they’d been an important part of my life for twenty years. I don’t get sad about it anymore, but I still feel disbelief that they could do this to me. Why? Why would they do this? I often shouted at Ash in my darker times. Of course he had no answer, and the thing is, neither do I. I wrote a short story about it a while back:
Sorry Is the Hardest Word
Slowly they left. One first, then the next, until they were all of them vanished. Rubbed away from my life in a way that left me wondering if they were even part of it to begin with.
What did they do with their memories of us together? Did they turn away from those in the same way they had all turned away from me? What of the photos and trinkets gathered in times past? Did they discard those, rip the photos and stamp angrily on the letters and cards we had exchanged throughout the years? I couldn’t know because I couldn’t ask. All I know is that I kept all of mine, my heart too broken to really believe that any of it was possible.
I laid it all out in front of me: The photos of Oktoberfest when we were just teenagers; A giant gingerbread love heart strung around my neck and her smile glowing wildly through her tossed about hair; both of us beautiful. There was the seahorse he brought me from the ocean. Its pouch dried open to reveal a hollow inside. My five year old arms had hung around his neck the day he gave it to me. The jewelry boxes the other one had brought me from far and wide. Some of camel bone, some of copper; all of them wonderful. That one never let me hug him but I loved him anyway. The fishing rod the oldest one treasured. He wouldn’t let me touch it, although now it belongs to me because he left, but in a different way to others. His exit was not just from me, but from all of it.
I say to myself that I don’t care about them because now I have such a good life. I do have a good life, but I still wonder about them. How could they turn their backs on me in such a way? I want to ask them and yell into their faces about how cowardly and disappointing it was for them to do what they did, but I know I won’t because I know they only care for themselves and wouldn’t be able to give me what I need, which of course is only the word sorry.
Sorry I want them to say. Sorry for leaving you when you were sick and terrible. Sorry that I didn’t have the courage to stay by your side when you were told that you were dying. Sorry that my idea of who you were wasn’t the right idea and now I see that it didn’t matter anyway because you are a better and stronger person for what happened to you. Sorry, sorry, sorry. They never will be though.
They wrote on my wall in a language that I no longer understand. They tracked their mud all across my floor and broke some windows here and there. I watched them set fire to the ceiling and chase all of the butterflies from my garden; they tore up the world. And I let them. I let them.
Certainly I am sorry. Sorry that I taught myself deception and that I had to learn my way out of it by the hardest road possible. I look upon the trinkets of the past and wonder about who I was when I gathered them all.
They left me and sometimes I wanted to as well. I’m still here though, albeit in a different way because now part of me is missing, cut away and gone forever. Some gone because of illness, much more gone because of them. Not all of it I miss.
Slowly goodness comes. A house can be rebuilt, piece by broken piece. I watch through new windows as butterflies arrive. One kindness informs another and I have a good life.
The garage sale got rained out 😦 I made a bit of money, but nowhere near as much as I’d hoped. The most popular items were the electrical appliances donated by my friend Chris. Next on the list were the cups and saucers…eek, I’m not sure who donated them and then the Tupperware, which came from my friend Jan and some of Ash’s workmates. Oh, and the paintings! Yeah! Everyone loved those. I managed to sell around half. Even my nephew Jaxon, who is 11 “bought” one (I swapped him a carton of eggs – he has his own egg business).
I’d really like to do a cent sale but I don’t know anything about how to organize one. I really need some people or even just one person who can help me out. I kind of need them to be local, so they can help me on the day with setting up and running the event. If anyone is able to help me out, I would love it if you could let me know. Thanks!
I haven’t had much time for fundraising stuff lately, apart from selling a few plants at the front of the house. Christmas cakes have been taking up pretty much all my time. I think I’ve made around 20 so far and I still have like 15 to go. Sooooo many cakes! The first one of the year I donated to my brain injury group to be raffled as a lucky door prize at the Christmas party. It was won by my friends Michelle and Ashlee, who seemed pretty excited about it. I’ll have to wait until next year to find out if it tasted any good. It sure looked good, even if I say so myself!
It just occurred to me as I writing this that I could have made Christmas cakes and sold them to raise money! Durr!! How stupid 😦 I guess it’s a bit late now.
I’m having a big garage sale on Saturday the 26th of November from 7am at my inlaws’ house in Bundy: 45 Faldt Street, Norville. Everything I’m selling has been donated including:
- 60+ original artworks (from $2 a piece)
- stock saddles (one is brand new, other is Syd Hill kids)
- all purpose saddle (Kreiger brand: NZ made leather with NZ wool packing)
- other equestrian gear
- native tubestock (only $3 each)
- pot plants
- new and 2nd hand clothing
- air conditioner ($10)
- electrical items and kitchen bits and pieces (from 50c)
- vintage Avon bottles
- silky oak furniture
- Craft items
- other cool stuff!
I’m getting a big raffle together and tickets will be for sale on the day. I’ll post some photos of it when I’ve finalised the contents next week. It will likely have a Christmas theme and be based around BBQ’s and the outdoors. Tickets will be $1 each or 20 for $10 and I aim to draw it on the 20th of December.
“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another”
– John Dewey
Date 14th September
It was hard to get the timing right for the arrival. I had to sit around the corner up the hill from the café for a while before I was allowed to come down the hill. I think they were waiting for TV crews and other people to get there. In the end I rang Ash and said, “I’m not sitting here anymore, I’m coming now.” So I did.
I could see everyone off in the in the distance as I walked past a lady near a little boy who was pushing a stroller. The TV cameras were pointed in my direction and I thought that the little boy pushing the stroller would probably end up on TV too. The next thing I knew, the stroller was out of control, racing down the hill and the boy couldn’t stop it. It swerved from side to side, all the while picking up speed until it crashed into a big tree, upending the contents and the little boy onto the footpath. That’s all on camera I thought.
I expected the baby to be in a bit of trouble considering the stroller was upside down, but as I approached, the lady I’d walked past came up with a smile on her face and said, “Don’t worry, he does this everyday. That’s why the baby isn’t in the stroller.” I didn’t notice when I walked past her earlier that she was carrying a baby.
“Are you ok?” I asked the little boy who was rolling around on the ground.
“Yeah!” he shouted as he jumped up and ran off laughing and skipping.
“He’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” his mum said as she smiled at me.
I felt like a bit of knob walking down the hill towards all these people ringing bells and making all kinds of noise, but they made me do it a couple of times again after that to get it right for the cameras and then I felt like an even bigger knob!
Anna and Paul from the QIMR Berghofer had arranged a nice morning tea for me and the other people who were there to greet me. Ash and Pat were there and Jim from Glenaven. Clive Berghofer came too and the Mayor of Toowoomba, Paul Antonio. Some ladies from the Toowoomba Zonta club were there and my friend Leeanne from Bundaberg had put the word out to her church group and a few ladies from her network came along to say hi.
I did some interviews with the TV people and more interviews with newspapers and a radio DJ called Crazy Kev. It was hard to find a spare second to grab something to eat.
Anna gave me a Team Eureka tshirt and a commemorative book about the QIMR Berghofer that a lot of staff had signed. It was really nice 🙂
Eventually everyone left and so did Ash and I.
One kindness informs another and I have a good life
Clive Berghofer on left, me in the middle (obviously!), Anna and Paul from QIMR Berghofer on right. I’m not sure who the lady in black is? Photo courtesy of Anna Welch.
Clive, me and Ash. Ash isn’t really that short, he’s standing downhill 🙂 Photo courtesy of Anna Welch.
Crazy Kev and me. Photo courtesy of Anna Welch.
“there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”
– David Mitchell
Date 13th September
I wanted to see how far Café Valetta was from Shanny’s house, so I knew how long it would take me to get there for my official arrival tomorrow. I also had to make up a few kilometres. It took an hour and a quarter to walk to the café, so I just kept walking down the hill to the big shopping centre at the bottom.
Even though I knew that Ash was coming to pick me up tomorrow and the whole thing would be over, I felt like I really wanted to leave. I also think I felt a sense of loss that everything was coming to an end and I was starting to wonder what my life would be like when I get back home, not to mention the fact that I don’t like shopping centres and really only went in the there to use the ATM. I’ve got to get out of here! I said to myself.
I walked back up the hill and decided to take myself out for lunch at this place that had $9 schnitzels. The guts of the building was weird. I couldn’t work out if it was a pub or a restaurant. I wrote a story about the lights:
The lights looked like they could come alive and start crawling across the ceiling and down the walls. They were like giant black spiders that somehow seemed to have an air of malevolence about them. Unwarm, uncaring and calculating, once set free they would stalk across the entire room, capturing and devouring anyone within reach. All of this they would do with the attitude of machines.
I almost walked out without paying because I’d forgotten that I hadn’t paid at the start. The schnitzel was $9 and I got a small glass of softdrink. The total came to $14.90, which means I paid almost $5 for glass of sugary water! WTF!
I went back to the hospital to see everyone and a midwife, Elsie, gave me a donation. Shanny was back in her room on the ward by then and Aubrey’s gran was telling her it was time to leave. Poor Aubrey 😦 She was so sad that her mum couldn’t come too. She grabbed Shanny’s hand and said, “come on Mummy, let’s go.” It almost made me cry!
This is kind of what the lights looked like. Photo from https://www.aliexpress.com