paying it forward for mum
When my mum, Mandy, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer early in 2006, we knew nothing about this beast. We would soon find out that the statistics were grim, and with her cancer detected in its advanced stages, her chance of survival beyond five years almost non-existent. We would also find out that there was incredible work being done by the OCRF in funding research into improving treatments, and the search for an early detection test. Powering a huge amount of this work, was the annual Witchery White Shirt Campaign.
For the first Mother’s Day we celebrated following Mum’s diagnosis, I bought three beautiful crisp white shirts from Witchery, one as a gift for Mum, and the others for my sister and I. What an awesome way to make I difference, I thought.
It began a tradition - Mum receiving a new white shirt for each and every Mother’s Day thereafter, and my sis and I often buying a shirt for ourselves.
When we lost Mum a few years ago, we were absolutely devastated. She had fought an unbelievable battle and we had been so fortunate that she was so responsive to chemo and that some of the clinical trial drugs she experienced had enough of an impact to improve her quality of life and indeed prolong it, even if for a couple of years. We cherished every single moment of every extra day we were gifted as a result of these small advancements in research and treatment.
Continuing the tradition
Then, the first Mother’s Day rolled around and with it the timing of the first White Shirt Campaign in 10 years where I didn’t have Mum to buy a white shirt for. I contemplated purchasing another for myself - but a quick scan of the wardrobe revealed I already had a pretty healthy collection of seven Witchery White Shirts!
However, my desire to contribute to this epic partnership and amazing campaign was burning and so I hatched a plan to start a new tradition. I would continue to buy a White Shirt each and every year from there on, and gift it to a woman in my world who shares some of the same wonderful traits as my Mum - courageous and strong, witty and fun, caring, kind and supportive.
The first choice was an easy one. My amazing boss, Bec, had been extraordinary in her support of me during Mum’s fight, in every possible way. Time off to spend with Mum, time to grieve when she passed, care and compassion every step of the way. Not to mention her incredible generosity in donating to lots of my many mad fundraising pursuits as I developed an increasing passion for supporting the OCRF and their quest for an early detection test.
In 2019, the second recipient of a shirt was a friend, Emma, who I’d come to know through a local ‘boot camp’. Those mad fundraising pursuits of mine had hit a new level of crazy in 2017 when I embarked on a bike ride from Adelaide to Melbourne. It was intended to be a one-off, but Em had different ideas. She had watched the ride unfold on social media and asked what I thought about her buying a bike, learning to ride and joining me on the next edition of the ‘Silver Lining Ride’. It brought us closer than just a weekly burpee session in the park, as we spent countless hours pedalling along Beach Rd in training and then on the ride itself.
With her courage to learn to ride, and determination to raise a ton of funds, not to mention loads of laughs, Em is not only one of my closest friends, and as addicted to cycling as I am, but also the proud owner my second white shirt!
This year, COVID-19 interrupted loads of plans, but not my White Shirt tradition.
2020 had already been extremely challenging for me personally, even before the virus reached our shores, and my dear friend of some 20 years, Beck, had rolled up her sleeves and been there for me with her incredible kindness, epic advice and enormous strength. When lockdown kicked in, Beck wasn’t deterred and continued her support from afar, zooming in with regular check-ins, all the while juggling her own family and role as a nurse on the frontline. It was such a joy to repay her kindness with a White Shirt and, deliver it the moment restrictions lifted and I could pop by to hand it over.
Gifting a Witchery White Shirt has once again become a tradition I look forward to each year.
Whilst it was initially symbolic of another Mother’s Day to cherish with Mum, it’s now a wonderful time to reflect on the amazing woman she was and the awesome family, friends and colleagues I have, many of whom embody her many incredible traits.