Emma and Olivia Newton-John
Around this time last year, when Brendan and I were struggling to climb impossible slopes, fighting our way through brush and brambles, and sweating through blistering hot afternoons, I swore to myself, on more than one occasion, that nothing – nothing – could make me go through all of that again.
But I was wrong.
Walking the Wall Part 2 is about to begin, and this time ‘round it’s for a cause – the fight against cancer. As some of you may know, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 30, a few months after Brendan and I were married. We were devastated, of course, but practical. My Dad had survived lung, liver and bowel cancers, so I could survive this. As it turned out, thyroid cancer is, according to the doctors, “the best type of cancer to have”. The cancer is removed with either part or all of the thyroid gland, and survival rates are very high. My partial thyroidectomy was a success, and I continue to monitor my gland and control my thyroid hormone levels with medication.
It was partly because of this scare that Brendan and I were encouraged to go and walk the Great Wall of China in 2006-2007, a physical and mental challenge to prove that I was stronger than the illness.
But most people aren’t so lucky with cancer, as many of you would know. And it is because of this that I am returning to the wall.
From April 7-29 I will be joining Olivia Newton-John, Sir Cliff Richard, Dannii Minogue, singer James Reyne, actress Sigrid Thornton, dancer Paul Mercurio and dozens of other athletes, celebrities and cancer survivors such as myself to walk 228 kilometres on the Great Walk to Beijing, all of us raising money for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne. This centre will bring under one roof a comprehensive suite of cancer services, including research programs, an innovative Wellness Centre, and facilities for acute and palliative care patients.
All of us talking part in the Great Walk are supporting the Cancer Centre by asking our friends, colleagues and family members to “sponsor our steps” by making a donation at the Great Walk to Beijing website.
Cancer is an illness that will strike 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women before the age of 85. By its often devastating impacts on our closest friends and loved ones, it touches us all. If you can sponsor me, I would be honoured to represent my friends and family out there on the Great Wall. I will be walking for my Dad, walking for my godmother Pru, for George’s godfather Tony, for my cousin in London, for my two close girlfriends, and for all the people we have lost to cancer and who are going through it right now.
Alternatively, you can attend a fundraiser to be held in Sydney in mid-May on my return and donate at the door. Or you can click and go to the fundraiser!
You’ll see on the website that there’s a bit of healthy competition encouraged between the walkers, and in order to compete I have to get my sponsorship numbers up and clicking away while we’re walking. The numbers of donors are counted every day.
Memories of burning thighs and blisters aside, both Brendan and I are over the moon about returning to China. It will be wonderful to see the Wall with fresh (and non-exhausted) eyes, to be able to share the pleasure of hiking along it with others, and to see some of the old friends we made on our first Great Wall walk.
We probably won’t be able to blog as frequently as we did on our first journey, but do check back here at the site in April and May. If we have time for nothing else, we’ll post a retrospective on the journey when we return.
Most importantly, head on over to the Great Walk to Beijing and sponsor my steps. Together, we can make a difference!