Jane swims the Cole Classic for cancer research

Jane describes herself as a fairly active person with a passion for cross-country skiing and swimming. The Cole Classic is a favourite event for Jane, and this year she did the 2km swim to fundraise for cancer research in memory of her mother.

“I swim regularly – always have and love it. The regular aquatic fix keeps me healthy and sane. My two gorgeous daughters, Kate and Meg, think I am nuts to be sharing water with, and being on the menu, for sharks. Peter, my husband, is more of a runner and cyclist than a swimmer but does occasionally join me in an ocean swim.

I particularly like the vibe of the Cole Classic from Manly Beach. It is a swim that attracts lots of newbies who have never participated in an ocean swim. I grew up swimming in a pool and the Murray River and had to learn how to swim in the ocean. Anyone new to ocean swims is to be admired. They are putting themselves way out of their comfort zone, and way away from the safety of the shore! If they are also doing their bit by fundraising, that’s really commendable.

I am always reminded of cancer research whenever I think about the surgeon’s comment to my mother 38 years ago. Not long after she was diagnosed with cancer, the surgeon – a bloke with a fairly dry sense of humour – said, “Well Ann, they will have a cure for this in five years, a pity you will not be around to benefit”. That was 1978 and regrettably, neither cure, nor complete prevention, has been found.

My mother was 49 when she was diagnosed and given only three months to live. Being an incredibly determined person, Mum lived for another twelve months. Today chemotherapy is not much fun but in the 1970s the treatment was harsher. With no chance of survival, Mum chose not to subject herself (or us) to treatment. She helped my brother celebrate his 21st birthday and me, my 18th in fine fashion. I am convinced her focus was to hang around as long as possible to equip us to be capable, strong and resilient after she was no longer with us.

Not having Mum around for the last 38 years hasn’t been a picnic, but I am sure she would be proud of how we have coped and what we have achieved.

The lasting impact for me of my mother’s experience is how she behaved: her strength, her grace and calm while suffering, her focus on the positive, her ability to retain a sense of humour. These behaviours not only help you, they help others. Of course, her leaving us has been particularly tough. As too many others who have experienced loss know, every significant and happy event in your life – weddings, children being born – is tinged with a bit of grey.

An experience like this can lead you to dismal places, but focusing on the positive as my mother did has kept my life mostly bright.

I believe in what the ACRF are doing for cancer research in Australia. The ACRF fundraising team has been spectacular in their support and encouragement and certainly emboldened me to actually ask people to donate!” ACRF supporter, Jane