I’ve always been an avid believer that in a bad situation good things can happen. I emphasise can because not everyone will agree with this. I also refrain from using a certain phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’; I prefer to believe that good things happen because you choose to create something positive.
After walking the cancer path, I know first hand how hard it can be to create something positive with your situation. It’s easy to allow your world to be overshadowed by darkness, but it’s much more empowering if you can choose to let light in.
Cancer, or any other life-threatening illness brings about uncertainty and change in an instant. For me, not only was there an immediate change to my health status, but a forced change to my work situation and country of residence; I could no longer work through treatment and I moved back to Australia. But both of those instant changes created an opportunity for something else to transpire: I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands, and the desire to start a local parkrun.
Within weeks of moving back to Ipswich, I had a chance encounter with a local Councillor, Cr. Andrew Antoniolli. My mother was holding a fundraiser for the charity she works for and, as subtle as she is, mentioned to Andrew that I wanted to start a parkrun. Andrew, like most people, was unaware of the parkrun concept, but he set aside some time to speak with me about this idea. During our initial conversation he questioned how I would oversee this weekly event while flying internationally. I casually mentioned that I would be off work for the next year, because I was having treatment for breast cancer.
I think this comment sidelined him a little, and made him question my sanity about wanting to get involved in starting such an event. Shouldn’t I just be focusing on getting better? But I knew I could do both.
I remember gazing out towards the park from my oncology suite, imagining parkrunners running along the paths carved into the hill (which I still get grief for…making them run up hills…). On days I felt well enough, I dragged my family out to walk the paths with me to map out the 5 km course. Back then, I didn’t have a fancy Garmin running watch; I used the trusted Nike RunKeeper App to measure the course, and of course, track my times —cancer didn’t take away my competitiveness.
Within a few months from that first conversation, and with the help and support from Andrew, parkrun and the Ipswich Hospital Foundation, Ipswich QLD parkrun launched.
I take great pleasure in knowing my cancer treatment wasn’t endured in vain. Each Saturday, more than 100 peoples’ lives are improved, even just a little, by having the opportunity to turn up to a local parkrun event.
I am forever thankful for those who believed in me and supported me to achieve this — I didn’t do it alone. And I am genuinely honoured to have been recognised for this.
It was an emotional moment to receive the award yesterday, as I was recognised for not only my commitment to improve the community by launching parkrun, but the circumstances surrounding it.
I was very touched by their words:
“Diagnosed with a serious illness that forced her to give up work as an international flight attendant, Rochelle refused to let her illness and treatment stop her from making a positive contribution to the community. She has established and facilitated the Ipswich QLD parkrun, enlisting the support of both the Ipswich Hospital Foundation and Council. Now well and on the mend, Rochelle has returned to her job and continues to be an inspiration to us all.”
Spot on, I say…
Australia Day 2016 will always be extra special, as I have a shiny medallion to always remind me of one of the best silver linings.