I was asked by Jo at Liv/giant if I could go and speak at the farewell ceremony for the National Transplant Games. They were after an athlete *cough* who represented the spirit of the games - someone who had a can do attitude of Never Give Up.
I was honoured .... and here is a copy of the speech I basically gave.
As I am sure none of you have ever heard of me, my name is Bec Failla.
My story is quite simple really. 11 months ago now, I was watching TV when an ad for the Ride to Conquer Cancer came on. I sat staring at the TV and declared in that instant that I was going to do the ride. The formalities of not having a bike, having 3 little kids and a husband, a full time job .... well, none of that crossed my mind. All I knew was I wanted to make a difference.
I signed up for the ride first, then I went to my local bike shop and purchased the best bike I could afford with only one set of criteria ... it had to be a Giant. The definition of Giant is - thing of great size, a person or thing of extraordinary power, significance, or importance ... and that is what this journey would be about. So it was only fitting that a Giant Bike is also my mode of conquering! Also their motto : Ride Life - Ride Giant ... it just fits!!!
And then this journey officially started. My first ride was a shaky 6km ride around my neighbourhood. I came home with only one thought - how am I ever going to do this? But then I started thinking about people that had influenced my decision to make a difference.
Vince, my brother-in-law, had spent 3 years of his life as a patient of Peter Mac. Vince had renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) and lymphoma and had been given next to no chance of surviving past five years. He moved down from his home in Hervey Bay and became a patient of Peter Mac. Now, 5 years later, he is as fit as can be expected and in remission of his cancers. He lost his right kidney and 15% of his left kidney, so organ donation is something that Vince will need in years to come. The good thing is my husband is a perfect tissue match for donation. The bad thing - Vince's cancer was genetic. That throws a spanner in the works given my husband could be struck down with the same cancer that almost claimed his brother's life.
Another person I know well - Michelle. Michelle is now 28 and for the last 6 years has battled various types of Cancer. It started in her cervix and over the last 6 years has invaded her brain and liver. In 2011 she was classed as terminal and given 6 months maximum to live. The team at Peter Mac just couldn't see a win to her fight. But, with progress in research and drug therapies, Michelle is alive today, last week had her final chemotherapy dose and is now classed as "no cancer evident". This is something never thought possible 12 months ago. Her fight now though is to find a new liver. Because of what her body has needed to fight her cancer, her liver is now failing her. She is currently on the donor list and the long wait for a phone call has started.
I have 23 other Cancer stories ... and one other special little girl who travels with me on my rides. Little Hannah had Cystic Fibrosis but through organ donation was given the chance to breathe normally, which was her only wish in life. Her family have comfort knowing Hannah's wish came true before she passed.
So I now have the names of my "angels and fighters" on my bike. I should add here, thanks to Giant, I have a much fancier bike. Hearing my story, they decided to make my journey a little bit easier. And after Michelle and Vince and all of my angels and fighters, her name is Maverick.
These are real people who have put up the fight to live and give it everything. I have their names on my bike as a way of inspiration. When the going gets tough and I feel like quitting, I just look down and think of my angels and fighters and know that pain has no limits and if they made the decision to quit, how different life for us all could be.
It would be like this for all of you. You have faced death and defeat and from your pure strength and determination have made it through. You are all inspirations just by sitting here today. What you are about to go on and do it truly remarkable. Having seen what it takes to survive a transplant - what you are doing now by competing in the Transplant Games shows the courage that you all have.
It seems the Aussie spirit is that we all associate through Sport and celebrate the victories. Whether it be a Grand Final, the Olympics, a Tour victory with Cycling or just an epic journey. Sport builds communities, promotes health and for people like you and me, it provides hope. Through Sport, people like you and me can use it to raise awareness and raise funds and provide hope for a future.
What you are all about to embark on provides hope for those waiting for a phone call. You provide hope for families who have given the gift of life – proving that life does go on! You are all proving the difference that organ donation makes. Without it, this room would be empty.
To receive a donor organ or tissues and then go on to make something from it is truly remarkable. You all need to stand proud because the commitment and dedication you are making is an inspiration like no other.
So, on behalf of me, on behalf of Giant and on behalf of those angels you carry with you, I would like to wish you all the best in Newcastle. We will be looking forward to seeing the results!
Thank – you :)
The actual event was quite an eye opener for me. It was smaller and more informal than I expected, but the impact has been massive. I still have not been able to process it in my mind, but I did get to speak with a few of the athletes who will be competing. What was obvious is that these people don't see themselves as any different to me. They are just going what they are doing and associating with people similar to them.
Probably the most moving and heart wrenching moment would have to be a conversation I had with a donor family. I was speaking a mum who lost her son at the age of 21 and made the decision to donate his organs. To hear her story will stay with me forever - and yes, give me a few days and I will share it with you. It certainly gave me an insight into organ donation I had never considered. I am on the donor register, but knowing what happens when I do die, what my family will go through, that is something that is not spoken about. But it is a story to be told! Stay tuned!!!