Monday, 28 April 2014

The Heartbreak of Fundraising

For the last 2 1/2 years, I have been a very active fundraiser not only for Cancer related charities & events, but many others. A quick post, a share, a tweet, a blog and old fashioned story telling has meant that I have been able to raise a substantial amount of money for the main Cancer Research Centers across Australia and I always try and support people who have supported me with an encouraging donation for their charity of choice.

But fundraising for charities is everywhere and getting harder. I am sure that if I gave everyone $20 that asked, it would chew up my entire income!

Having participated in 5 Ride to Conquer Cancer Events from October 2012 to December 2013 not only required hard work work and dedication to a training schedule, but it also had me tirelessly raising money. That is where the hard work and lies - trying to take the No's and knock backs to find an illusive Yes. And now in my 3rd year, finding new places to get a Yes is even harder.

I have been humbled by the amount of support and funds raised, but this has come from a very small circle of people. People who have been personally touched. I sat back watching the Good Friday Appeal a couple of weeks back and was amazed at the generosity that individuals and corporations show for this cause. We get to sit and watch stories that break our hearts. The tiniest members of our community, laying in beds and facing treatment that would frighten the toughest of them all. We watch with sympathy as parents cradle their sad faced babies and we cannot help but put our hand in our pocket and try to make the slightest difference to the lives of others. Even as I threw my last $2 into a highway collection bucket, I wished I could have done more.

Personally, I have needed to use the Royal Children's hospital with my daughters. Firstly when Amy was only 16 months old and suffered so badly with gastro that she was admitted for immediate re-hydration as her little body was starting to fail her. Holding our tiny baby down as they inserted a feed tube into her nose was one of the hardest parenting moments we have had. Only 7 months later, she was back to undergo her first local anesthetic ... to remove a tooth she had knocked out. I sat with parents who had the look of fear in their faces as their babies were placed in the hands of medical staff - ready to face something as simple as Amy was having right through to open heart surgery. And then again with Mia when at 6 weeks of age an accidental burn with boiling water saw her having treatment that lasted 6 months. These experiences broke my heart and every Good Friday I am reminded of our short visits to RCH. I have a personal experience and this is why every year I Give That They May Grow.

When I started out fundraising for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, I was fueled with an experience. My Reason to Ride. And as I shared my reason and stories, I got to hear many more from others who had similar stories to share. And most of those stories were met with support and encouragement for what I was doing. But not always.

I will never forget my first attempt at asking for support. I arrived at the local bike shop looking for help. Looking for support. I didn't want a free bike - I just wanted help. I had no idea what I was doing, had no idea what I needed to buy, no idea of the gear etc. I needed support and guidance. But when I walked in and declared that I was doing the Ride To Conquer Cancer and needed help, they saw me as a  potential sale, steered me towards the high priced performance road bikes and I knew they never understood the reason why I was riding.

Then about 2 months ago, I learnt that the co-owner of the store now understood 100%. At 35 years old, she was diagnosed with Cancer. Lung, Liver and Brain. Assumed secondary cancer from a previous battle with Melanoma. I knew enough about Cancer that the combination she was fighting was never going to end well. It would take her life. 

And on April 16, 2014 my fear for Nicola was right. She lost her battle leaving her husband and 2 little girls to face a life without her. I am heart broken for her. I am heart broken for her family. But worse still, I look into the faces of those close to her and my heart breaks for them because now they understand. I watch the new raw pain they suffer and just wish they didn't have to understand the heartbreak of Cancer. I wish they didn't have to watch Nicola so quickly be taken away. In the prime of her life, the prime of her career as a Councillor working tirelessly for her community - but as a dearly cherished mum, wife, daughter, sister and friend. So quickly Cancer consumed her.

That is the heartbreak of fundraising. It comes with the knock backs. But it also comes with the sadness that no matter how hard we work, how hard we train and how hard our charities then do justice with the financial support they receive, they cannot save everyone. Having to sit through a funeral is the biggest knock back we receive.

In a situation like this, generally there is a flood of support in memory of those lost. It is the support they wished they had given two years ago that may have prevented this. It is support in the hope that the pain they are now suffering will not have to be endured by another family.

And this is what keeps me going. It is what keeps me out there accepting the No's and the knock backs. It is also understanding that everyone has their own reason for that No. I just hope that they never have to understand why I ask. 
Nicola Davis
19/12/1978 - 16/04/2014

Nicola was a committed to making a difference to as many people as she could.  And in her death, it is the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre that will accept donations in memory of Nicola.

I will hold the memory of Nicola close to my heart this year as I complete my Ride To Conquer Cancer rides in Brisbane and Melbourne.  My focus is on early detection, prevention and seeking treatment to ensure the best possible odds of beating this disease. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Saving myself

For 2 years, my Reason 2 Ride was simple. I rode in the hope that I could raise as much money and awareness for Cancer Research as possible. How I did this ... well, we all know the story!
(If you don't, you will find it in this blog)

But now, the reason has changed. I no longer ride to save others. I am riding to save myself.

For the last 6 months, I have been wading through a pool of grief in search for shallow waters. For the first few weeks, everyone surrounded me and helped keep the tidal wave away. But one by one, almost everyone has let go. And now I find myself in the deep waters - struggling to stay afloat.

The time since Mum died has been the biggest challenge that I have faced. Mum died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 62. But what came next is what has torn me apart.

  • Pulling up in your parents driveway to find a coroners van and police awaiting your arrival. 
  • Watching your mum being wheeled out in a body bag from her home. (but glad you stood beside her on that final exit from her home)
  • Wishing you had of kissed her one last time. 
  • Realising 3 months later Mum had claustrophobia and had mentioned that she didn't want the bag zipped over her face. I wish I had of remembered that on the night of October 7.
  • Having to accept that an autopsy had to be performed despite it being against mum's wishes. 
  • Waiting 4 1/2 months to find out it was something as simple as choking in her sleep that took her life. But because of her nightly medication, she couldn't wake to fight it. Drug intoxication and asphyxiation caused by aspiration pneumonia. 
  • Having to understand the above cause of death by means of talking to the Chief Pathologist at the Melbourne Institute of Forensic Medicine. Those are conversations I wish I could forget, but haunt me day and night. 
  • Being stuck in a state of grief induced depression and realising the challenge my mum faced everyday as she battled bipolar and depression for many years. 
  • Trying not to be the crazy mother that I had and explaining to my 8 and 7 year old why mummy sometimes cries, yells and gets frustrated over the little things. 

Getting through the grief is something that I have to do alone and in my own time. So through my riding, I am making that time. But not just riding anymore. I am adding swimming and running to the mix.

Instead of treading water, I will put my head down, kick my legs and swim. There will be days where I have the clear blue calm water and other days where it will be rough and choppy.

Time on the bike will be my free time to feel the wind in my hair, the breeze in my face and a time to release my thoughts.

And instead of running away from my problems, I will run alongside them and use their energy to keep me going.

The perfect mix to train for something I never ever thought I could do - a Triathlon. And I hope that by the time I get to the finish line, I would have found the strength and courage to face the choppiest seas, ride the steepest hills and run down the other side with a smile on my face.

To do this is going to be hard. Already my daily routine has me up by 6am and not stopping until 8:30pm. So finding time to add a training schedule has been a challenge. But I feel I have to. Comfort eating and a glass of wine each night has certainly not helped. But keeping a diary, understanding what I need and now putting it in place hopefully will.

Tomorrow I will wake up and it will be exactly 6 months since mum passed away. Half a year. 26 weeks where every single day has been a challenge in someway for me. But every single day I got up and I got through the day because I had to. I got through it because my kids needed me to. I got through it because my step dad needed to see someone else get through another day. And I got through it because my mum couldn't.

So welcome to my new Reason 2 Ride. This will become a blog of my training and a diary of "what happens on the trip". I am breaking rules, because I know there are others out there who appreciate my honesty.

And for all of my Angels and Fighters - you all still live with me every day. You all have families out there who are in different stages of grief, so hopefully we can help each other!