What would you do if your sister was terminally ill? Samuel Johnson’s sister Connie is dying of Breast Cancer so he’s setting out on an epic challenge. He’s riding around Australia on a unicycle!

This is the story of Samuel’s journey around Australia, so keep checking for regular updates as he endures everything our country can throw at him... all the while wondering why he’s attempting this trip on just one wheel.

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TV Special Screening, Melbourne, 29thth April 2014

Since I dared Sam to ride around Australia on a unicycle, over 3 years ago, we have had a team of dedicated and committed film makers following our journey and recording it all. 3 years of planning and work, fundraising and awareness raising has been compressed into just 42 minutes of footage, which makes up the Love Your Sister TV special which will go to air on Channel Ten on Saturday at 3pm. I was one of the lucky ones to get a sneak peek at the advance screening for all of the volunteers who worked on the show. The preview was held in Fitzroy in Melbourne and was a great opportunity for me to meet the people behind the production and thank them for their hard work, and amazing results.  

Alistair Marks came on board right at the very beginning and started following us around with a camera while we planned Love Your Sister. We scurried around trying to get sponsors, worked out who the beneficiaries would be, and planned all the logistics of the event for 2 years before Sam even pedalled a metre. And Al was there with us, recording it all. Then he went on the road as well, filming things like Sam riding off a 60 metre high bungee tower. Al also became the LYS stills photographer and took a lot of the best shots that have been seen on facebook and instagram throughout the journey.

Stuart Liddell came on board just before Sam set off, and Stuey has been there, camera in hand, for most of the journey around Australia. He has endured high temperatures, raging winds, heavy rain, and the highs and lows of life on the road. He has sifted through and painstakingly transcribed hours and hours of footage.

Both Al and Stuey have seen us at our best, and seen us at our worst, they have witnessed the highs and the achievements, but also those moments when we thought that Love Your Sister was never going to happen, when we were in deep despair. Together, they have made a TV special of the Love Your Sister story, out of hundreds of hours of footage, they have sifted through it all, and dug out the highs and lows and made our story come to life on the screen.

They have worked with a team of editors, transcribers, and production and post-production professionals to make this a compelling hour of Television, and they have done it all for free. The entire documentary was made with a budget of $0. So please, if you watch the documentary on channel 10 on Saturday, please watch the credits, and clap for the professionals who gave their time and expertise out of the goodness of their hearts to make this doco. Hopefully it will move people, make people cry, make people laugh, and with a bit of luck, make people pick up the phone and donate, so we can keep raising money to fight breast cancer.

Making a TV show isn’t just about the footage. So much happens to it before we see it. There is graphics, colour grading, sound engineering, and of course, music. All of the music in the Love Your Sister TV special is original and has been produced by professional writers and musicians who have donated their time. 29 people worked on the writing, performance and recording of the score. Leading this team of dedicated professional musicians was Nick Marks, and he has done an amazing job.

I was gobsmacked at the quality of the production. Al, Stuey and Nick, and the countless other volunteers who worked on it have made something especially meaningful for me. For me it is more than the TV special. For me it is also a record of me for my  boys. When they grow up a little, and they have forgotten the sound of their mums voice, and the way I looked when I smiled, they will be able to see me, larger than life on the screen, and they will be able to see the work that Sam and I put in to try to make a difference to people with breast cancer and their families.

Sam and I lost our Mum when we were 3 and 4, and things were different back then. There were no mobile phones to take photos and videos on, so we didn’t have a lot of photos of mum, and we didn’t have any footage of her. Being as young as we were when she died, neither of us have any memories of her at all. When I was diagnosed, my children were 3 and 4, and I feared that I would die and that my memory would die with me, that the kids wouldn’t have memories of me. Now I have seen this TV special I know that even if the memories of me fade, my kids will always be able to watch this and remember their mum and how much she loved them.

So thank you Al, Stuey and Nick, and everyone who gave their time to this project, for making these memories for my children.


TV Special Credits, Thanks to every single person who made this TV special, so very, well, um, Special!!

Presented by
Guy Pearce

Produced by
Samuel Johnson
Alistair Marks

Directed by
Alistair Marks
Stuart Liddell

Post Production Producer
Stuart Liddell

Edited by
Stuart Liddell

with

Joao Dujon Pereira
Cindy Clarkson

Director of Photography
Alistair Marks
Stuart Liddell

Camera Operators
Alistair Marks
Stuart Liddell
Leighton Thomas
Jonno Hinton

Written by
Stuart Patch Liddell
Alistair Marks

Assembly Editors
Lucy Paplinska
Jaklene Vukasinovic
Lidia Costa
Bill Kalajdziovski
Belinda Fithie

Assistant Editors
Bill Johnston
Ariel Shaw

Supervising Editor
Peter Carrodus

Post Production Supervisor
Belinda Fithie

Transcribers
Brenton Matulick
Katherine Eden
Ben Praccus
Kate Candlish
Nadine Barry
Nadia Ali

Production Manager
Emma Rooke

Original Score Composed by
Nicholas Marks

Score Produced by
Richard Stolz @ Woodstock Studios
Nicholas Marks

Audio Engineer
Richard Stolz
Assistant Engineer
Luke Mullan

Musicians
Sam Hirschfelder (Drums)
Nick Martyn (Percussion)  
Luke Mullan (Percussion)
Matt Hayes (Electric Bass) 
Brendan Tsui (Electric Bass) 
Grant Higgins (Acoustic / Electric Guitars, Ukelele)  
Andy McGarvie (Electric Guitar, Claps and Foot Stomps) 
Ryan Lim (Electric Guitar FX)  
Jules Pascoe (Double Bass)  
Brae Grimes (Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet) 
Alex Howroyd (Flute, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Whistle) 

Vocalists:
Jess Palmer   
Kate Kelsey-Sugg  
Rachael Comte    
Lauren Glezer  
Noah Rosenbloom 

Strings
Lizzy Welsh (Violin) 
Phoebe Lindner (Violin) 
Christian Read (Viola) 
Caerwen Martin (Cello)
Kain Borlase (Double Bass) 

French Horn
Lauren Davine 
Matthew Coulsen
David O’Meara
Peter Marks 

Trombones
Simon Carter
Daniel McIlvride   

Licensed Music Credits
Hiatus Kaiyote
Leap Frog
Lace Skull
Mobius Streak
Ocelot

Hey Frankie
I see you
Leave
All I want
Sold

Charity Rose Turner
Into the Stream
Sailing Along

Alicia and Glass Lake
Luminous
Higher

The Box Tiger
Hospital Choir

Testimonials Supplied by

Graphics
Nick Cooper

Sound Mix
Paul Shanahan @ Final Sound
Laura Hesse @ Final Sound

Colour grade
Vincent Taylor

MoVI Operator
Cam Batten

Road Crew
Leighton Thomas
Alistair Marks
Jonno Hinton
Stuart Liddell
Sarah Hallam
Gemma Fisher
Amanda Nelson
Dion Szer
Nathan Wentwort

Thanks To
Connie Johnson
Hilde Johnson
Michael Johnson
Willhougby & Hamilton Johnson
David Johnson
John Johnson
Jamie Johnson
Optical Alkemi studios
Final Sound
Woodstock Studios
Ben Joss
Jon Barrie
Chris Walker
Karl Stefenovic
Carrie Bickmore
The Project
The Today Show
LateNite Films
Andy Kaos
Mara-Jean Tilley 
Andrew Giles
Kylie Sherwood-Kelly 
Charlie Rooke
Dez Stallard
Kate Radford
Steph Farmelo
Mel Van Deventer
Justine Bloome
Solitaire Paul
Tony Hayes
Mark Brewster
Jacob Zhivov
Andrew Mara 
Louise Munnoch
The Johnson Family
The Thomas Family
The Marks Family
The Liddell Family

Writing Holiday with Sam, 30th April – 10 May 2014

When Sam got back from his ride around the country, we were determined to take a few days off together and have a break, with no work, no unicycles, and no cancer to get in our way, just a nice little family holiday. That was back in February, and things have been so busy since then that it has taken us until April to get around to it!

But boy was it worth the wait. Sam took me and our other sister, Hilde, the healthy one, on a cruise. We went to Vanuatu and New Caledonia. His idea was that if he can’t take me to France, he could at least take me to a French speaking country. I can’t go to France because I can’t get insurance and if I get sick over there it would bankrupt the whole family, so he thought that a cruise, with a doctor on board to a place just a few hours flight from home would be a much safer bet. It was a good gamble, because I didn’t sick at all, and we didn’t end up needing health care. Yay!

None of us had ever been on a cruise before and now that I have been, I get why people love them so much. It was so much fun. But the best thing about it of course was getting time to spend with Sam and Hilde.

But it wasn’t all beer and skittles. Sam and I have a book deal, and are planning on releasing our memoir (about us, our family and our Love Your Sister journey) in November this year. This means we have a book to write, and we have to do it fast. So we did some writing most days, and shared ideas and talked about and planned the book. Since Sam is in Melbourne and I am in Canberra we don’t often get to sit down together and have a chat, and chatting about the book was great, he inspired me to keep on writing, to keep on getting the words on the page. We have written tens of thousands of words between us already, and we haven’t even gotten to the Love Your Sister bit yet. The story goes right back to when we were kids, and how close we were as youngsters, and how we battled through my first cancer together, and all the highs and lows since then.

So although we were sailing the pacific in a magnificent cruise ship, we were also working. No rest for the wicked I guess.

And I got my little French experience. We went to Noumea and Mare in New Caledonia where I got to practice my French and eat a crepe. The mixture of cultures is fantastic. You can order a crepe on the beach, and have it with a fresh coconut with a straw. Fabulous.

  

Sam enjoying the tranquillity of the Waterfall and lagoons at Port Villa.

 

We met heaps of people on board. Lots of people came up to us and said lovely things about Love Your Sister, I felt a little bit famous, it was weird, but wonderful. We made some friends, wrote some of our book and had lots of precious family time.

Thanks Sam for taking us on a holiday, and for believing that I could go on a holiday and not get sick. I have been living in fear for so long and you gave me confidence to try new things and live in the moment. I love you brother.

Mothers Day, Canberra, 10th May 2014

As much fun as I had on the cruise, I really missed hubby and the littl’uns. So it was perfect timing that I got home the day before Mother’s Day. They couldn’t wait until Sunday and gave me flowers and chocolates as soon as we got home as an early Mother’s Day present. But the real present was being home and healthy, and with my boys.

When I was first diagnosed as terminal I was given about 6-12 months to live. The cancer was thriving and very aggressive, and it seemed that nothing would stop it from bringing me down, until we stumbled upon a chemotherapy drug that seems to have turned off the cancer and made it inactive for a little while. So the cancer has been stable for quite a while now, and it has given me many precious moments with my kids that I never thought I would be blessed with.

Mother’s Day this year was no exception. I was absolutely showered with cuddles and if hugs alone could cure cancer, I would be better by now. They might not cure cancer, but their little hugs give me so much joy. I am just so happy that I have been able to survive this long, to see Willoughby and Hamilton grow from toddlers into big primary school aged boys. I am so thankful that the Xeloda halted the cancer in its tracks for a bit so I can enjoy this for a bit longer.

 

Of all the Facebook messages, tweets and emails we get from people, the ones that really affect me are the ones from other Mum’s fighting cancer. It almost stings to read about their stories and I am inspired by their strength and determination to hang around for as long as possible for their kids. So this Mother’s Day I would just like to say that I thought of all you Mum’s out there fighting this awful disease, and hoped that you get better and can put this cancer thing behind you. For the Mum’s like me, with a terminal diagnosis I hope your day was as special as mine was and that the little moments with your youngsters give you something special to get you through the hard times.

Boobathon, Sydney, 12th April 2014

This is a fundraiser that has been planned and co-ordinated by Dave Star and Lorna Gow. They have been working on it tirelessly for months, and their story is one that I would like to share.

Dave and Lorna own an art gallery and design business (Hand Of Law), and Dave stumbled across Love Your Sister last year and got involved, organising an art fundraiser at his gallery that raised over $10 000. Dave’s enthusiasm and drive is amazing.

So when Love Your Sister came to Sydney, we caught up with Dave and Lorna for dinner, to say thank you for all the work they have done, and to talk about the next fundraiser they are planning. We sat down to dinner, and Dave says “Well, should we talk about the elephant in the room?” and I wonder what on earth is going on, what is he talking about, then Lorna gives him a nod, and Dave proceeds to tell us that Lorna had found a lump in her breast and had just that week been diagnosed with breast cancer.

How is that possible? That someone who has done so much to raise money and awareness for breast cancer can then be diagnosed herself. I was shocked and saddened by this news. My heart sank into my stomach and I wept inside for Lorna and what she was about to go through. She quickly cheered me up with her positive attitude, and the good news that because the tumour had been found early, it looked like it would only need surgery and radiation. The news that she would not have to have chemotherapy, and would not need a mastectomy, that a lumpectomy would suffice lightened my heart and I thought “This is why we did it, this is why we started Love Your Sister. When I was first diagnosed as terminal, Sam asked what I wanted my legacy to be. I said I would like to prevent just one other women from dying, prevent one other family from going through what my family is going through. I thought quietly to myself, ‘Sam, we did it. We actually did it.

This reminder, of the true meaning of Love Your Sister, and the importance of early detection brought home to me the magnitude of what Sam is doing. Telling people, one by one, to be breast aware, not to fall into the booby trap. Visiting town after town and community after community on that silly old unicycle has been worth it. He really has made a difference.

So in the face of a new diagnosis of breast cancer, Lorna and Dave would not be deterred, the work would go on, and this would not stop them from organising another great fundraiser, even bigger and better than the Hand Of Law Gallery fundraiser they did last year.

While undergoing surgery and radiation, Lorna, with the help of Dave and the organising committee, organised the Boobathon. It was a family fun day, followed by a raffle and auction, going from morning to night at the Erskinville Hotel in Sydney. Thanks to ‘The Erko’ for providing your venue, and for supporting and hosting the Boobathon.

Today Show Cross

The day started with a live cross to the Weekend Today show link to segment I couldn’t find it online, don’t know if there is one. It was so cute, Leila McKinnon, the host just kept saying “Boobathon” she loved the word, and kept repeating it, she must have said it 27 times. It was a great plug for the event, and again, we are very grateful to The Today Show for their support.

Family Fun

There was face painting, a jumping castle, wrestler entertainers and a petting zoo, heaps to keep the kids entertained.

The wrestlers smashed Sam in the face with a cream pie, which the kids thought was hilarious (and yes, it’s true, I may have had a giggle too!) There is just something about Sam that makes him a perfect target for a cream pie!

 

Street Art

For the parents and other grown-ups there was a street art exhibit where several street artists painted huge paintings for the auction, live, in front of the crowd. The artists spent the whole day painting and creating, and watching the works evolve was really interesting.

The Artists, Ben Brown, Glenno Smith, Mike Watt, Sindy Sinn and Joel Moore worked away all day on 7 foot high paintings that were auctioned that night. The works fetched between $700 and $1600 at the auction, so that was a massive success, and some lucky bidders scored themselves some really interesting work.

 

I would like to thank all of the artists for donating your time and your work, between you you raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research. Thanks.

Stalls, stalls and more stalls

There were a stack of stalls, showcasing all sorts of interesting bits and pieces, a highlight of this for me was the Breast Screen NSW stall.

Sarah worked all day informing women of how to do self-checks and booking women in for their breast screens. This is the frontline of the war against breast cancer. Checking for lumps and bumps and being proactive if you find anything is the key to surviving this disease. Around 15 000 women will get breast cancer each year in Australia, and 7 women die of it every day! Fewer women will die if we are as vigilant about early detection for breast cancer as we are with our pap tests. So if you haven’t had a mammogram and you are over 40, you are eligible for a free screen through Breast Screen in your State or Territory. For younger women, please do self-checks once a month, and ask your GP to do a breast check for you every time you have a pap test. Breastcancer.org has step by step instructions on how to check your breasts yourself - it’s easy and doesn’t take much time.  Mammograms aren’t effective in younger women, so self-checking is essential.  

There is something I love about family fun days, fetes and festivals, and that is that you can buy cupcakes and other such goodies there. Diane and Katie donated their time, the ingredients and their baking prowess to raising money for Love Your Sister today, and in the weeks leading up to the Boobathon, and they make the BEST Honey Joys I have ever eaten. Thanks guys, you raised over $1000 today, awesome effort.

Other stalls included Dog Pack, Diane Tipping & Katies cakes, Elouera SLSC, Uno Amore Coffee, Ben Coles & the Super Wrestling Heroes, The Erko Hotel Sausage Sizzle and Shadow Lust Designs, Paddy the Baker and more. Thanks so much to all the stall holders for coming along and helping out. You all made a big contribution to the day, both by being there and donating to breast cancer research, so thanks heaps.

Bunnies Bunnies everywhere…..

 

A long-time friend and supporter of Love Your Sister is Louise Munnoch. Lu is living with terminal breast cancer and she somehow finds some time and energy in her busy treatment, work and family schedule to help us out. She came along with her beautiful daughters and friends today to help out. Lu bought these piggy and bunny onesies (kindly donated by KIGU ) and the girls donned them and became our cutest supporters of the day.

Body Painting, slick, very slick indeed

There was an amazing artist doing body painting at the Boobathon. Her name is Anna and she runs a business called Brown Sugar Air Lab. Today she donated her time and artistic excellence to raising awareness and money for Breast Cancer. Check out her work! Isn’t it amazing? To see more about what she does, and heaps of pics of her Love Your Sister work, please click on the link and check out her facebook page, it is worth it.

 

Entertainment, tunes floating through the air

There were several entertainers who donated their time to creating a great ambience for the Boobathon. A huge thanks to Dave Favours, Sharon Gambill and Deny Kirkwood for coming along and contributing.

 

Thanks also to radio station KIIS 1065 who promoted and attended the Boobathon.  

Going once, Going twice……………………..And Sold

If all of this wasn’t enough, and believe me, by now I was exhausted, but there was so much going on, I stuck around for more boobarific fun and fundraising.

The committee organised a huge array of raffle prizes and auction items, there were hundreds of them, too many to mention here, but a special thanks goes out to Rocks Brewing Co the main sponsor and Hungerford Hill Wines.

The auction was so much fun, people were bidding like crazy on art, dining experiences, sporting and music memorabilia and all sorts of things. Then, in walks Ray Meagher (also known as ‘Alf Stewart’ from Home and Away), shouting ‘Strewth’ and ‘Stone the Crows’. He came along to auction the Home and Away on set experience, and if he hadn’t become an actor, he certainly could have been an auctioneer. He spoke really nicely of Sam, in his younger days, when he appeared on the show as Sally’s first boyfriend, and auctioned the Home and Away experience for big bucks.

  

Then came a very emotional auction item. Sam’s Unicycle. I couldn’t believe that he was willing to auction it off. Something that held so much meaning and so many memories, he was willing to part with his unicycle that took him up Mount Kosciusko, the hardest and most gruelling section of his unicycle ride. And here he was, putting it under the hammer. I couldn’t believe it, my heart was in my throat and I felt sick, I wanted to cry. Instead I got up and asked for the microphone, then I pleaded to the bidders to make this worthwhile, for such a special item, something so close to my heart, I wanted to at least see it sell for a good amount, even though I didn’t want it sold at all.

Then the most heart-warming thing happened. Allan Sparkes bought the unicycle for well over $1000 and then came over to me, and told me that he had bought it for me, because the unicycle should stay in the family. I was so touched, I couldn’t believe that someone could be so kind. I talked to Allan and his lovely wife for a while afterwards and it turns out that he has written a book himself, he was a police officer who saved an 11 year old boy from a flooded storm water drain and then spiralled down into PTSD. To see more about his book, please click on the link. It’s an inspirational story about a wonderfully kind man.

Thanks Allan, due to your generosity, Sam’s unicycle, will stay in our family for ever now.

Drum Roll Please……………………And the Grand Total is…………………….???

After an amazing fun filled day and night, that was worked on, and contributed to, by hundreds of people, the Boobathon raised a massive……………….drum roll please…………..

$35 800. This is the single biggest fundraiser ever held for Love Your Sister, and I would like to acknowledge the organising committee for their amazing work, Dave Starr, Lorna Gow, Sean Dugan, Sharon Ayres, Simone Reid, Fern Anderson, Hannah Jeffers, Monique Galloway, Michelle Day and Marni Jenkin. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

Photo Credits

Thanks to Daniel Gibbs and Amanda Nelson for your photos of the Boobathon.

For a full list of supportors and contributors for the Boobathon please see below:

The Venues & Co

Hannah Jeffers

The Erskineville Hotel

Natalia James

Solotel

Jake Toivonen

The Bank Hotel

The Courthouse Hotel

The Organising Commitee

Sean Dugan

Sharon Ayres

Simone Reid

Fern Anderson

Hannah Jeffers

Monique Galloway

Michelle Day

Marni Jenkin

The Event Sponsors

Rocks Brewing Co – Main Sponsor

Especially Mark Feathers & Tim Fishwick

PM Electric

Hungerford Hill Wines

Electrical Project Solutions

Drawable

Lighthouse Tattoo

Stone & Wood Brewery

Megadeck Staging Systems

The Video Makers

Deny Kirkwood

Ash Brennan

Hired Gun Productions

Carlton United Breweries

In The Wings

Brendon Pavey

Tracey Cook

Darren Bottom

Luella Moore

Richard J Watkins

Katherine Moore

Rob (Paw Paw) Moore

Brittany Sheahan

Sammy McPherson

Karen Nettelfield

Omar Chicho

Chel Cherie

Christophe Domergue

Glen Steveson

Damien Flegg

Matt Mannix

Steve Lambrinos

Cameron & Liz Francis

Josh Roelink

Rick Scarfone

The Stall Holders

Lena Seeto & Dog Pack

Diane Tipping & Katies cakes

Glenn Cairncross & Elouera SLSC

Sharon Chapple & Uno Amore Coffee

Ben Coles & the Super Wrestling Heroes

Sarah Little & Breastscreen NSW

The Erko Hotel Sausage Sizzle

Bec Willis & Shadow Lust Designs

The Auctioneers

Rick Nicholson

Braden Walters

McGrath Real Estate Agents

Auction Donators

Kristina Echols & Channel 7

Ken Healy

Ray Ahn, John Needham & The Hard Ons

Deniz Tek

Ian Roberts

Graham Thompson

Kerry Ratcliffe & The Koru Studio

Glenn Koek

Ash Brennan

Hand Of Law

Samuel Johnson

Fern Anderson & the Sydney Swans

JCB Carpentry

Craft Design Realisation

Ithaca Cottage – Mudgee

Rick Grossman & the Hoodoo Gurus

Rob Hurst from Midnight Oil

Raffle Donators

Bondi Beach Cruisers

Lion Nathan

Tender Touch Landscaping

Sydney Pub Tours

David Jones

Pacific Brands

Joico Hair Products

Hungerford Hill Wines

Sharon Gambrill Laughter Yoga

Sydney Harbour Tall Ships

Frances Watts

Billiard Blitz

BridgeClimb

Ben Brown

Ash & Natasha Brennan

Dendy Cinema Newtown

Bohemian Diva

Sydney Swans

Macleay Hotel Potts Point

Corona Beer

FDC Group

Better Read Than Dead

Sydney Buddhist Centre

Suncorp Stadium

Della Mano

Bar Nosh

Queensland Bulls Masters

“Mansfield” Cottage Barrington

The Bank Hotel (Newtown)

Masterchef

Flying Penguin Toy Store

Arbonne

Itsy Bitsy Baskets

Hand Of Law

Beyond The Sea

Marked Hair

LoveLight Kingdom

Katiescakes

Erskineville Deli 

Bunnings Alexandria

Tooheys New

Frances Watts

Hands Of Imagination

Corona

Ken Healy

Tracey Cook

Anada Jones

Dr Garden

Bank Hotel (Newtown)

Allphone Arena

Our Suppliers

Adam Ziino & Shout Media

Andrew Meats

LUX Bread

The Street Artists

Ben Brown

Glenno Smith

Mike Watt

Sindy Sinn

Joel Moore

Dog Show Prizes

Dog Pack

Wolf Ink Dog Grooming

Entertainers

Dave Favours

Sharon Gambill

Deny Kirkwood

Connie’s Diary: The Royal Visit (with apologies!)

Well, I have been extraordinarily slack with my blogging since half way through the ride, I have been thinking of starting my blog again for ages, but haven’t known where to start, because there is so much to write about. About 2 weeks ago Sam and I were approached by the staff at Government House to see if we would be interested in coming to a function with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on 24th April. Well what a funny question that is! Sam and I were gobsmacked, and YES, of course we would be interested. It was all very hush hush, we weren’t allowed to talk about it until after the event, which was very difficult. One of the most exciting things to ever happen in my life and I wasn’t allowed to talk about it – torture, for me, as I am an open book, and am terrible at keeping secrets. Now it is over, and we have been to the function we are allowed to talk about it, and that is exactly what I want to do.

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I will re-start my blog with my royal experience. This function was hosted by Your Excellency, the Governor General, Peter Cosgrove, and Lady Cosgrove It was to be a cocktail function, and Sam’s invitation specified a dress code of Lounge Suit, whilst mine stated Cocktail. So I immediately started rummaging around for something to wear. Kate always looks so elegant and beautiful, the thought of being in the same room as her was quite daunting.

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I am very lucky to have a dress sponsor, who jumped on board when she saw our story on The Project early last year, at the beginning of the ride. Her name is Karen Ristevski, and she has her own label called Bella Bleu. Karen makes the most beautiful dresses, and has quite a few in her line that are suitable for me to wear without prosthetic breasts. Nice high necked flowy designs that could be worn by flat or ample chested women alike. Karen has generously donated a heap of frocks for me to wear for any occasion, and she had the perfect little number for meeting the royals in.

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Last year, we did a story with The Today Show, and Karl Stefanovic came to my place to interview Sam and me. On that day a lovely lady, Vicki Hayes, came to do my make-up. She made me feel presentable enough to be on the TV, and was really nice, so I gave her a call to request her to do my make-up for the royal occasion. Vicki made some time and came over to spruce me up before the big night. Thank Vicki, for making me feel beautiful and confident for this big deal. (Vicki’s web site can be found here.)  Sam hired a suit for the purpose, and he looked dashing, it’s a shame we don’t have occasion for him to dress up very often, because he looks rather dapper when he makes an effort. 

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When we arrived, His excellency made an introductory speech and it was then that we found out who’s company we were in. It was a function for young people who are at the top of their fields, in Sport, The Arts, Medicine, Science, Environmental Service, Human Services and Community Service. There were 100 guests there, and I felt quite out of place amongst people like Harry Kewell, Layne Beachley, Guy Sebastian and Yassmin Abdel-Magied from Youth Without Borders.

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When Their Excellencies, the Cosgroves, entered the room with the Duke and Duchess I was so star struck. I don’t think there are many people in the world who are more photographed. They are so familiar and I recognised their faces from seeing them in the media so much over the years, it felt quite weird being in the same room. My heart was a flutter and I felt like a teenager at a Justin Bieber concert. I felt weak at the knees and felt nauseous, and it wasn’t the medical treatment, just the excitement.

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We were really honoured to meet Her Excellency Quentin Bryce last year, while Sam was riding through the Canberra region. This was an honour in itself, but a pleasant occurrence on the side was meeting Al and Jo and several other staff at Government House. I was so impressed with how professional, but also how genuinely friendly the staff were, and tonight was no different. We saw a few familiar faces and met some staff we hadn’t previously met, and they made us feel most welcome and comfortable.

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It was all really proper and formal, as you would expect, there were no photos allowed, unfortunately, but the Duke and Duchess themselves were so genuine and polite and caring. Will was really charming and Kate was so elegant, it made my head spin to think I had just spoken to them.

When I met Kate, Sam had disappeared to find a drink, and he left me to my own devices. I was in a small circle of people we had been talking to, and when she came around to us, and she asked each of us what we do. When it was my turn, I told her about Love Your Sister, and how Sam had ridden around Australia for Breast Cancer research and awareness. She was genuinely amazed and asked where he was, I said that he had just slipped away and would be back. She said she would like to meet him, and when he returned, she turned around again, and said “This must be the amazing brother.” She remembered what we had been talking about, I was amazed. She asked lots of questions about my personal experience with cancer, and how we started Love Your Sister and what it involved. She also asked if we had received much support along the way.

Kate was really engaged in our conversation, and she had a tear in her eye when I was telling her that I am terminal and the reason we started LYS was to try to prevent other young children from losing their mums, like my children will lose me. Telling the Duchess of Cambridge about what we have achieved over the last 18 months, really brought home to me just how much we have done. Sam did an amazing thing, not just for me, but for all people with breast cancer and their families and friends. I am so proud of him, and what we achieved. When Sam spoke to William about what we had done, how much money we have raised so far, and what had motivated us, he was very proud to be able to tell him that we had received amazing support from people all over Australia, and that the support we had received was what made Love Your Sister so special.

As amazing as it was to meet Will and Kate, the whole event was quite special, Sam was absolutely floored when he saw Harry Kewell enter with his beautiful wife Sheree, and Sam and I ended up hanging out with them, and a lovely couple from Canberra, Mike (a sporting clothing company director, who works with underprivileged kids to promote health through sport in Fiji and New Guinea, and Alison (a food blogger). Our little group spent the night laughing and making fun of ourselves and how star struck we were by this surreal experience. It was such a fun night, but by the end of it, I was in a lot of pain and feeling very tired, so I had to find a place to sit down. Sam and I were so impressed by how both Will and Kate engaged so personally with everyone they met. They listened to each person with interest and genuine friendliness and were so considerate, giving each person as much time as they could, but politely moving on so everyone could have a turn.

The highlight of the evening for Sam was listening to Harry Kewell and William talk about soccer and Williams response to Harry’s question, “So why do you support Aston Villa??

As the Duke and Duchess left the event, they nodded and waved to Sam and I. Sam was quite proud that he was acknowledged by both of them, and made fun of me because only Kate acknowledged me! We are such a pair of dags.

As soon as we got home we ditched the fancy clothes, got our slippers on, put on our big fluffy dressing gowns, and had a quiet drink on the Balcony, reflecting on the whole experience. As many highlights as there were, a few little things stood out.

  • Harry Kewell knew about Love Your Sister, when Sheree explained who we were, he said, “Yeh, I know” and started telling us how he had heard about Love Your sister on the radio. Sam was blown away, and I was so proud.
  • Kate remembered what I had told her about when I met her the second time, and was excited to meet Sam, “the amazing brother”.
  • The staff at Government House going above and beyond to make us feel welcome and comfortable.
  • The lovely messages of support that we received on Facebook when we posted about what we were about to do. People were so genuinely happy for us, it was lovely.

Connie’s Diary: Flying Business Class to surprise Sam

The flight over to Perth was awesome! I got to fly business class and they had these pods to sit in. The chairs extend and you can lie flat, and the chairs have an inbuilt massager! I had a big sleep and when I woke up there was a cupcake beside me! How delightful. I can see why people fly business class now; I have always thought, why would you spend all that extra money, when the flight will be over, you get off and forget about it? Now I get it, you get to be comfortable, spread out, sleep and eat at your leisure.


After this flight I am ready to surprise Sam, I wonder how he will react when he sees me?

Connie’s Diary: Preparing for the big surprise

After Darwin, I wasn’t sure that I would make it to Perth, but the whole time I have been hoping that I would make it. I couldn’t commit, because I never know how I will be feeling in advance, but when ‘The Project’ offered to fly me over for a surprise visit to Sam I was so excited.

I have had to keep it a secret from Sam, which has felt cruel. Every time he asked if I was coming to Perth I had to say that I wasn’t feeling strong enough and it wasn’t looking good. It felt absolutely awful lying to him, but I really wanted to surprise him in Perth. The plan was that Carrie would go over to Perth, and ride into Perth with Sam (on a 2 wheeler) then she would present me as a surprise once they got there. When Sam heard that Carrie would be joining him on the road he rang me up and said “Con, you have to come to Perth now, Carrie Bickmore is coming and riding with me, you have to come, you can’t miss this!”

I felt like such a phoney when I said that I would love to, but I just can’t, the kids need me and Mike has exams, so I really can’t come, plus I just don’t know if I am up to travelling at the moment. Samuel was so excited that it felt awful to fib to him, but the surprise should be worth it.

Connie’s Diary: Visiting Hammy’s Class

Last year, in the times when I was feeling ok, I went to Willoughby’s class and helped out one afternoon per week. I assisted with reading, craft, and crowd control, which is what school is like sometimes. I really enjoyed seeing Willoughby in his classroom, with all of the children he talks about at home. It was also great to get to know the other children in his class and just being involved helped lift my spirits and give me something to look forward to each week.

Love Your Sister has been taking up most of my spare time and energy this year, so I haven’t been able to do the same thing for Hamilton in his first year of school, but lately, since I have been having a chemo break and feeling a little more energised, I have been able to get back to the school to help out. It is really great being back, and doing this year, what I did with Willoughby last year.

It is really great to see Hamilton at school, and get to know his friends and classmates. I just love being in the classroom, I think if I had my time again I would study teaching and become a teacher, perhaps in a special needs environment, to incorporate my love for the disability field. I really do love the classroom and helping young students with the reading and activities. It is so amazing to watch them grow up in that first year of school; they make a huge transformation from being pre-schoolers to being big school kids by the end of the first year. It is incredible. I hope that my health stays strong and that I can continue to go and help in the class as I really enjoy and so does Hammy.

Connie’s Diary: Hammy Star Wars Party

Hammy was invited to a Star Wars birthday party recently. He has never seen Star Wars (neither have I), but he has books, and they talk about it at school, so he knows all the characters, and seems to love it. He chose to dress up as Anniken as a child, as he had seen in a book, which was perfect, because he has the same hair as the little boys who plays the part in the movie, and looks quite like him.

When I went to buy the fabric to make his costume, he innocently asked me if I had bought the material in the Star Wars section of the shop. How cute is that? I love that he thinks there would be a section just for Star Wars material in the fabric shop!

Anyway, here he is, dressed up as little Anniken, and next to him, is a picture of little Anniken from the movie. Spot the difference!