I am a woman of contrast, and I own it!

I can be fierce, and I can be fragile. I can be strong, and I can be vulnerable. I can be determined, and I can be uncertain.

I have just recently loudly and proudly celebrated my 50th birthday, love the beach, sunsets and chocolate donuts, and am married to a beautiful man with our blended family of eight!

Yes, we are the Brady bunch… three boys and three girls ranging in ages from 17 to 22, and everywhere in between.  We have been married for five years and have experienced much in that time.

I feel so fortunate to have our big, loving family and our kids amaze us continually with their strength and growth. We live in Adelaide, South Australia, not far from the beach.

My husband and I went through our darkest times during my illness.  It has been incredibly difficult for him also.  Yes, I was the one going through surgery, treatment, losing my hair and so on but he gave up everything to be my full time carer. For more than a year he abandoned his passion to paint while caring for me around the clock. Appointments, housework, washing, driving the kids around, feeding the kids, dealing with the bills… I could go on, but I’m sure you get my drift.

Our family is a few years down the track now and we have stepped back into life and moved forward. Although much has changed.

I have returned to work, completed a Diploma of Psychology and run a successful coaching/counselling business. I also mentor women who have been through or are experiencing breast cancer.

I am a volunteer member of a consumer committee at Flinders Medical Centre, where I received my treatment, which gives me a chance to use my voice. I am also an active committee member of the Lymphoedema Support Group of South Australia and enjoy being part of a passionate group of people creating change for lymphoedema sufferers.

I have gained a deeper understanding of myself during the last five years, and have learned much about my body, my brain, and where I fit in the world. I have healed physically and emotionally, and now teach other women to do the same.

I thought I knew the secrets to a successful life before I was diagnosed… Turns out I had a lot more to learn!

It has taken the experience of breast cancer to teach me to accept and love myself, be happy with what is, and be grateful for all the opportunities for growth that have been thrown at me. I have been on a huge journey of self discovery and I now see everything very differently.

Even though I have done many things the hard way, I have lived a very full life. Many years ago, when I was watching my Mum breathe while laying in her bed during her final stages of her illness, she said to me, “Take every opportunity you get.” I guess you could say that this has been my theme of living. I knew what she meant, but I really figured out what it truly means in recent years.

Don’t be afraid, but instead draw on your strengths.

Consider your options of course, but take the risk and just jump. You may not always land on your feet but it will lead you to the place where you will.

Ali x

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