My Smiling for Smiddy Challenge Ride Reflection – 12 months later, better late than never!!!

Posted in News

Time really does fly! It was exactly 12 months ago today that I was packing and preparing to take on a seemingly impossible challenge, joining 49 other cyclists to embark on a journey from Brisbane to Townsville to raise money for cancer research in the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge Ride.

Here’s some essentials I packed…..

Essentials

Townsville is 1600km’s from Brisbane! 1600km’s over 8 days on our bikes!! Sounds crazy right? Here’s where we travelled…..

Map

The team at Smiling for Smiddy is seasoned and polished when it comes to coordinating such an event. There’s nothing the support crew can’t do. Whether it’s a gentle smile to send you on your way, or an embracing hug when you don’t even realise you need it most, they are wholly committed to the team with an unconditional bond of friendship and love. Even 12 months on from my own participation in the Challenge ride, I still feel blessed to know such incredible people.

Support Crew

In just 8 days of cycling, it is impossible to describe the wave of emotions experienced during that time. For me personally, I have not even been able to (or taken the time to really) sit for a moment and reflect on what I experienced until now, the eve of the next wave of cyclists taking this incredible journey. As a previous Challenge rider, I’m wondering how to describe it, how to explain it, how to send my wishes to my friends going this year and to complete strangers who are about to leave themselves.

My kids described it best for me….

Inspirational Kids

In a single week of my life, I can honestly say that I never felt anything else like it.

  • Happiness and sadness
  • Connection and isolation
  • Accomplishment and self-doubt
  • Love and emotional pain
  • Body strength and severe indescribable pain (who can forget the mind-over-matter blog?)

The emotional and physical scars I have from the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride will be with me forever. This quote sums it up best for me…..

Scars

Would I take it all back? Never!

Would I do it again? Who knows?

Would I recommend others to do it? Hell YES!!!!

The Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride changed my life. I still can’t perfectly pin point what that really even means, but it changed my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A special memory for me is that I got to spend 8 days solid with this amazing friend, Hannah Hogan, whose unconditional support helped me through some of my darkest moments. For those taking the journey this year, friendship will be your secret weapon through the tough times.

Hannah & Yas

I also spent hours upon hours looking at the photo in honour of Adam Smiddy stuck onto my bike. When it hurt, I looked at Adam and knew that my pain was nothing in comparison to him losing his life to cancer.   The memory of Adam and the presence of his parents David and Maria leading the support crew, ensured a level of mental strength you don’t even realise is possible. At the end of each of the 8 days, I thought about my emotions throughout the day, then I stuck a little emoticon sticker on my bike to help me through the next day. The photo of Adam and those stickers are all still on my bike 12 months later!!

Adam Smiddy

This year is made even more challenging with the absence of the beautiful Maria Smiddy. Maria is one of those people in life you just can’t find words worthy of describing her. Maria sadly lost her own battle with cancer earlier this year and it still breaks my heart to fathom what the incredible Smiddy family has endured. I simply have no words and can only honour Maria by smiling each time I think of her.  Every time I see this beautiful and treasured photo of us together with her husband David the night we finished riding in 2014, it warms my heart – it remains my Facebook profile picture to this very day.

Maria & David

I wasn’t really looking my best, as I had literally just shaved my long head of hair to raise just that little bit more money for cancer research.   I can thank this guy for that….

Zane

Zane is another one of those special people you meet along this journey. Zane is riding in the Challenge again this year and I have no doubt he will be one of the nucleus members of the group. He’s fit, he’s fast and he’s actually trained for the ride this year too, having come in as a late participant last year not long after losing his own father to cancer.

It just breaks my heart that so many of us have stories of cancer taking loved ones away from us prematurely. It’s one of the reasons it drives our little family to continue raising money for cancer research beyond events like the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride.  Our kids love wearing their own Smiddy gear around to show their support!

Girls_1

In the past 2 months we have two beautiful friends each be diagnosed with breast cancer. One friend has just had her bilateral mastectomy and our other friend is scheduled to have her bilateral mastectomy in 2 weeks time – exactly 12 months after I had my own breast reconstruction.  Both women will then fight a battle with this disease and I know they’ll both win. Their stories make me even more motivated to continue volunteering my time and energy to raise money for cancer research via our World’s Biggest Garage Sale.  With support from our invaluable and incredible volunteers, we are proud to have raised a combined total of $75,000 in our 2013 and 2014 events and we are looking forward to a record breaking 2015 event.

I can’t help but think that the timing of our exciting news today about the 5000 sqm warehouse space being donated to host our 2015 World’s Biggest Garage Sale in 6 weeks time was absolutely perfect. It has happened exactly 12 months after I took my own Challenge journey and on the eve of the next wave of riders leaving for theirs. Stay tuned for more exciting news about this space!!

Yas

As the 2015 riders leave tomorrow, I know in my heart that they will each travel a unique journey in their lives, which will forever remain with them as one of the most significant and memorable eternally.  Every day spent on the road with new friends, strangely feels like a whole regular year of time.  8 days quickly feels like 8 years of a very unique bond.

IMG_0389

Hair grows back, sore butts subside and even the scars will eventually heal, but the look on the face of your family when you return from something magical like the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride, is truly priceless.

Girls

Smiddy, Smiddy, Smiddy

My take on the ‘No Makeup Selfie’

Posted in News

If you’re anything like me, my newsfeed this past week or two has been flooded with images of my beautiful female friends and family, all without make-up.

To get you visually in on the act, here’s my ‘unofficial no makeup selfie’ just hours after surgery, where I’m definitely make up free and even completely naked, other than my sticky tape chest and disposable hospital undies.

Day 1_2

Initially I had no idea what was going on with the ‘no makeup selfie’ craze, so I just sat back and watched it all unfold.  I saw some gorgeous photo’s, predominately of women and girls, primarily supporting breast cancer awareness.  Then I started to read articles both supporting and criticising the campaign.

The supporters were the ones sharing the images, commenting on them, providing those who braved the ‘make up free look’ publicly with more confidence once they’d posted the image.  Some friends tagged their mates, challenging them to do the same on their own feed.  I must admit, it’s been a nice change from the ‘promoted posts’ I often see as I scroll through.

The critics were asking why? What’s the point? What’s the big deal about having no make up on?  Apparently some even say that it’s a sly way of women to put one another down.  Seriously?  Are we really that cruel in society that we feel the need to criticise others when they’re stepping out of their comfort zone?

Build-people-up-Dont

Let’s just get one thing straight!  There’s a myriad of ways to raise awareness and funds for cancer research, in fact, there’s a myriad of ways to raise awareness and funds for ANY charity.  Some ride their bikes, others compete in sporting events, some swim, some sell stuff on eBay, people shave their heads, some grow a mo, children sell chocolates, brownies, cakes, muffins, raffle tickets and crafts.

My question is…..Why do we feel the need to hack each other down when something new pops up in the media?

Haters

I consider myself a very open person, I love seeing new trends emerge and I’m typically supportive of anything, providing it’s not illegal.  If I have an opinion, it’s usually not on the negative side as I think that we’re all different and we should be accepting of diversity.

It really irks me that people are so judgemental and cruel.  One example is the Ricki-Lee selfie.  I don’t really ‘like’ nor ‘dislike’ Ricki-Lee, I don’t really know her songs, so I’m not a ‘fan’ screaming support for her.  In fact, when I looked into this further, it was only when I ‘Googled’ her name that I realised it wasn’t spelt ‘Ricky-Lee’.

What I am though is another woman who is embarrassed by the backlash she has received from others for the way her picture looks.

For those of you who haven’t come across it, here’s the image she posted on her Instagram feed:

RL Selfie

Her image was posted with the text “Love getting home & wiping off my make up!!! Ready for some serious couch time! #HappyFriday xxxx”

The backlash came from comments like these…..

“The kind of creep who would bang an anorexic freak like this would just as easily bang her little brother. This ain’t a woman, it’s a little boy. And that boyfriend of hers is a closet pedophile.”

“You’re in the wrong frame of mind if you think you look healthy,”

I seriously had to read these comment a few times before I could even believe them.  Do people really bully one another for a simple photo posted online? Geez!!!

Thankfully I was able to escape the cruelty after reading this comment from one of Ricki-Lee’s supporters….

“I am a size 14 and have collar bones that stick out quite dramatically. Yeh, if I took a photo up close like this one, I would look a little on the thin side… A full body shot, I would look overweight… Can anyone win? Leave her alone people. It’s pathetic!”

This woman is right!!  We can’t win can we?  Regardless of whether we post ‘no make up selfies’, or images all dolled up and looking flawless, there’s always going to be haters out there.

Haters-gonna-hate

Ricki-Lee proudly stood up for herself.  Here’s what she said to the online bullies who felt the need to attempt to bring her down…..

RL comeback

I couldn’t have said it better myself and strangely found myself wanting to burst into song chanting ‘Go Ricki, Go Ricki, Go Ricki’.  I was so happy she stuck up for herself, in such a positive way.

At the end of the day, the ‘no makeup selfie’ social media craze was created to not only raise awareness of cancer, but more importantly to raise funds towards research programs.  Some critics argue that we don’t need to raise ‘awareness’, which I suppose for some is true.  In our family, cancer awareness is extremely high, we’ve always discussed it openly and honestly from a very young age and it’s not something that has ever been hidden behind closed doors.

I came across this very detailed cancer awareness ribbon colours chart and thought it would help to share.

Cancer-Awareness-Ribbon-Colors

Others argue that sharing a ‘no makeup selfie’ does nothing for those who have bravely fought and won, or sadly lost the battle against this terrible disease.  I have even read some comments claiming that sharing a ‘no makeup selfie’ mocks the imagery of cancer patients, with statements such as this….A ‘no makeup selfie’ can’t compare to the pain and suffering of those who have battled the disease?’

It’s a no win argument really and the reality is, regardless of the cause, regardless of the motivation behind it, there’s no real way to please everyone.

While I personally bare the scars, I have never had to fight cancer, so I’m in no position to comment about the comparison of sharing a ‘no makeup selfie’ and the visual impact fighting cancer has on sufferers.  You might remember my quote….

Yas Quote

I never proclaim to be brave when it comes to cancer.  I have always approached it in more of a statistical way, which is why I didn’t jump on the bandwagon to post a ‘no makeup selfie’ during the initial stages of the campaign.

However, after giving it some thought, I have decided to post a ‘no makeup selfie’ of myself, but with a little difference.  I am including not just by face, but the scars I bare from my recent prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and I’ve done this for two reasons…..

  1. It’s real!!  It’s what I look like now without makeup
  2. To proudly show how accepting I am of my new ‘imperfect’ body

To assist with healing, I do still have Fixomull tape over the scars where my nipples once were, so it’s not completely ‘raw’, but other than that, it’s all me, no filters, no smoothing, no trickery with lighting, just a plain old first-thing-in-the-morning selfie in the bathroom.

nomakeupselfie

I know I’ve shared ‘selfies’ of my chest on this page in the past, this blog has always been a very open and honest forum for me, but as I mentioned in my previous blog article, this time I’m actually going to share it on my personal Facebook page.

It’s risky yes, because there are rules around posting nude pictures on that particular social media platform, however with this image, I’d be pretty comfortable arguing that it’s not actually graphic in this form.  It’s also risky because not only am I exposing myself to my friends and family, but I’m also potentially sharing this ‘no makeup selfie’ with business contacts, people I work with professionally, those that would not usually be ‘exposed’ (no pun intended) to my personal story.  I’m also at risk of the ‘haters’ slaying me verbally online and perhaps like my friend Beth Whaanga from Under the Red Dress project, I’m at risk of losing ‘friends’.

Along with my image, I’ll be making a donation to The Mater Foundation, supporting much needed breast, ovarian and prostate cancer research.  I support The Mater Foundation via my Smiling for Smiddy Challenge fundraiser.  You can support and donate yourself directly here.

Smiddy

If you want ‘in’ on the ‘no makeup selfie’, just snap a photo of yourself without makeup on and post it socially.  If it’s not your ‘thing’, then don’t do it – it’s as easy as that.  Just don’t be a hater please!!!

If you decide to go ahead and participate by putting yourself out there for others to see you in your bare and natural glory, then please do remember to you jump online and make a small donation towards cancer research.  I have purposely said this more than once because it’s not about awareness, it’s about raising funds to help researchers find a cure for this disease.

5dollarnotechallenge

I’ll continue challenging my own friends and family via my own social and ‘offline’ networks to donate just $5, the cost of a takeaway coffee to help raise much needed funds.  Funds that might one day prevent our children from having to make the decision as to whether they need to remove their own breasts to avoid a breast cancer diagnosis.

Remember, you can donate here and the few minutes it will take you to donate just $5, might just save lives.

Wish me luck with the public sharing on my personal Facebook page, I won’t lie, I’m a little nervous.

Yas xxxx

21 Days – Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy

Posted in News

Well it’s official, I’ve made it to the 3 week mark!  Yesterday was my 21 day anniversary post Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy.

There are quite a few exciting moments of this past week…..

Number 1 – I can now drive!!  Whoo hoo!!  I’m back on the roads, driving as safe as ever and a little more cautious as I turn corners, go over speed bumps and reverse park.  You see, even as the passenger, being in a car post prophylactic bilateral mastectomy has been a challenge.  Every bump feels like I’m being grabbed around the chest, pulled violently and propped back into place with a jolt.  Leigh’s been really good (most of the time), he remembers to slow down and take the corners a little less excitedly, but when we pull into our driveway, I’m often heard ‘groaning’ momentarily as I get flung around, reminding me that I’m a little fragile.

I must admit, it’s a good reminder, because it if wasn’t for the bumps in the car, I probably would forget that I’m still in ‘slowing down’ mode.

speedBump

Number 2 – I am now sleeping back in our bedroom!  Gone are the nights spent sleeping alone downstairs in my bargain Gumtree recliner, I can now make my way upstairs and sleep cosily beside my beautifully warm husband.

I’m proud to also confirm that since I posted my blog about my little ‘speed bump’ – I haven’t had any more accidents.  I was surprised to have more than 20 friends, family and strangers all share with me their own little story about their ‘accident’.  It seems that wetting the bed or your pants isn’t so rare as an adult after all.  I laughed so much at the shared stories, many of which are in the ‘vault’ as promised to so many of you.

Number 3 – I’m able to sleep on my side!  This sounds insignificant, but it’s actually really exciting, because it means I’m healing well and for a sleeper who normally loves to be on her tummy, sleeping on my side takes me one step closer to the dream of sleeping ‘normally’ again.

There’s no spooning just yet, but I think it’s getting closer each and every night!!

Spooning quote

Number 4 – No more knee scooter!  This is a great milestone, because it means my foot is healing well enough that I can now weight bare on it.  While I’m a little while away from running again, I can now waddle my way around comfortably in my moon boot without injury and without medication.

Roller

Number 5 – I can now get on the wind trainer – Dr’s approval!!  I’m surprised I didn’t make this one Number 1 and I bet some of my friends are shocked too.  I must admit, I popped it down here at Number 5 because while I’ve been desperate to do some sort of training, I really must admit that I’m proud of myself for not being so ‘hung up’ on it in the past 3 weeks.  I’ve really tried to suppress my previous strong desire to train, so instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to just embrace and accept that I needed to respect my body, be healthy to my mind and not ‘care’ about the fact that I haven’t been able to do anything. So that’s why this is all the way down at Number 5, because while it’s important to me, it hasn’t been the priority in previous weeks.

I know, even I’m surprised!!!  I can’t wait to train with this crew again, Friday here we come!!!

Windy

Number 6 – I don’t need to wear a bra!  My first trip ‘out’ this week was to attend a corporate function with 900 other delegates at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.  I managed to fit reasonably well into one of my business dresses, I was relieved after trying on at least 5 different options from my wardrobe, most of which were far too roomy around the bust to take out in public just yet.  The bonus – I didn’t need to wear a bra!  No crop-top, no tank, no cami, no boob-tube, no nothing!  Just me and my bare skin underneath my Cue dress.  It was a little strange to begin with, but I decided to run with it and it felt amazing.  I think I might make a habit of this!!

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 5.40.08 pm

Number 7 – I had coffee with friends!  Lucky Number 7 indeed.  Who would have thought that the act of simply catching up with some of my triathlon buddies would make me feel so much more alive?  I took advantage of the fact that I can drive again and decided to sneak into The Valley Pool and meet up with some of athletic friends all training with Tri Alliance Queensland at the regular Friday ‘windy’ or ‘swim’ session.  Our favourite meeting place is Bellissimo Coffee in Fortitude Valley.

I arrived as everyone was finishing and just seeing some familiar faces immediately made me feel better.  I was connected again, seeing the people who I’ve trained with over the years all sweaty and grotty after a tough session. Not once did I feel sorry for myself because I wasn’t able to train.  I got a few smelly hugs and loved it!  I couldn’t stop smiling, I was surrounded by some really amazing people and when we all met at the local coffee shop for breakfast, it reminded me why I miss training.  It’s not the act of physical activity that I miss, it’s the connectivity with the beautiful people I train with that I’ve missed the most.

bellissimo1

I had a little spare time before my Dr’s appointment after coffee, so I popped in to visit the team at Kosama.  Talk about another injection of positivity and energy!  I chatted to Niki, one of the trainers and once again it reminded me of why I get out of bed at 4:30am most days.  Being surrounded by people who are passionate, positive and truly genuine is enough for me to want to skip off to training each morning.  Yes the exercise is great and it undoubtedly keeps you physically fit, but I really don’t think that it’s the driving force behind why some people love to train.  For me personally, it’s the friendships, the connection and even the smile from a familiar face, even if no conversation occurs.

It really energised me for the whole day!!

Number 8 – My hair is long enough to cover my ‘chest’.  This is a weird one I know, but that’s kind of expected if you know me well.  You see, I’ve been growing my hair for about 2 years now with the view that I will shave it all off during my ‘Smiling for Smiddy‘ Challenge this year.  I’m riding my bike with around 50 people all the way from Brisbane to Townsville, all in aid of helping raise money for The Mater Foundation, supporting much needed research into Breast, Ovarian and Prostate Cancer.

Hair

It’s timely that this weekend is my Pop’s birthday.  He passed away a few years ago with Prostate Cancer, so in addition to me proactively beating breast cancer by removing my breasts, I’m a big fan of supporting Smiling for Smiddy via their many events, to raise money to help find a cure so I can save future family members from being diagnosed with this terrible disease.

I’m prepared to shave my head bald – completely bald, blade ZERO style!!  But I’ll only do it if I reach my fundraising target this year.  If you’d like to make a small donation to have your vote for me to either ‘Save’ or ‘Shave’ my hair, check out my Fundraiser page and make your donation there.

Save_or_Shave_FB_Post Save_or_Shave_FB_Image

So now that I’m past the 21 day mark, I’m well and truly on the way to a full recovery.  I have my first ‘fill’ scheduled on Monday 31 March, so that’s going to be a whole new experience.  I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

On a final note…..I’m currently preparing my own ‘no make-up selfie’ to post on my personal Facebook page.  Mine will be a little different though, as I’m actually working up the courage to post an image of my chest, bare, no make-up, no touching up, no filters, nothing!  I know I’ve shared this here in my Previvor blog and on my Previvor Facebook page, but I’ve never posted it out to a wider audience via my own personal profile.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 10.40.58 am

Most of the photo’s I post of myself are makeup-less anyway, so I thought I’d bravely share an image which will undoubtedly represent what I see as a visual image of being brave and raising awareness of breast cancer.

I’ll be asking my friends and family to support my selfie by making a donation of just $5 (the cost of a takeaway coffee), in support of Cancer research.

5dollarnotechallenge

If you want to get in early, feel free to make your ‘coffee’ donation here, you’re also welcome to connect with me on my personal Facebook profile to see the ‘chest makeup-less selfie’ post when it comes.

Thank you to all of you for following my journey and supporting me with messages of love and unconditional, non-judgemental support.

Yas xxxx