HI I’M DONNA – MARK 2

This past weekend you may have seen I’ve been away at a retreat for Brain Cancer. I set off for my second retreat down to the Bellarine Peninsula (Geelong to be exact this year) on Friday via the Searoad Ferry. A quick trip down to Captain Moonlite in Anglesea for lunch with my beautiful best friend Gemma – owner and front of house hostess with the mostess. After another amazing lunch (thanks Gem!), I set off solo once again to check in for the retreat and round 2 of “Hi, I’m Donna”.

Just after check in I did the ultimate in stupid, after my long journey there I figured my healthy hommus & carrot sticks (which didn’t get eaten) weren’t really worth keeping and would stink out the container so rather than just bin the whole lot, I decided I would wash the hommus from the container into the bathroom sink, so the bin didn’t smell. Mistake 1. As I attempted to wash said hommus down the sink, sink starts to fill, a lovely murky creamy yellow water begins creeping up the side. Mistake 2. So I add more water and pray that this will help it disappear. Mistake 3. Cursing myself over the bloody hommus and foul looking sink, expecting my room mate to walk in at any minute, I reluctantly call the reception…. “ahhhh it’s donna here in room 46… something is wrong with my sink”. When she politely asks what seems to be the issue, “it’s just not draining”. Next minute, a lovely young boy (with plunger in hand) knocks on my door. I point him to the murky yellow mess and then with verbal diarrhoea, I quickly try and explain the issue…..he laughs and I leave the room. Lots of plunging, squirting & squelching noises later he appears. Victorious. Thank god. I honestly wanted to have the floor swallow me up, at least I guess I have to be thankful it was only the sink and not a toilette was having to plunge! He did warn me if he saw me entering the hotel with any dips over the weekend that they would be quickly confiscated. Oh god. Thankfully it was only up from there!

Over the weekend many people asked me, who I was there with and when I replied “solo” they looked shocked. I know if I took someone with me I wouldn’t put myself out there to meet others. Plus I had met many wonderful friends last year whom a few I knew would be attending again.

This event is put on by Peace of Mind Foundation who supports people in all different stages of their (brain) cancer journey. Wether they are a patient themselves, a carer to a loved one or a widow of a past warrior. It’s a wonderful weekend, getting to bond with other guests in similar situations in which you would never have the opportunity to otherwise. I won’t lie, at times the weekend was very confronting and many a tears were shed.

The brain being the most powerful organ in our body works in the most amazing ways and when you have a tumour squeezing in there with it, the side effects are absolutely heartbreaking and so very cruel.

In this past year since the 2017 retreat, a few lovely women who I met, passed away. It was a kick to the chest reading the news throughout the year. Tears after tears, the “it’s not fairs” and constant questioning in my own mind. Yes you know people are unwell, you read the stats, you know it’s going to happen inevitably, but still. It’s bloody hard. I’m so incredibly thankful that I made it to this year, last year attending I didn’t know where I’d be a year later. Thankfully I’m feeling wonderful, I have a lot more hair, I’ve completed chemotherapy, I’m having positive scan results and I’m ready to continue this fight. I will see the 2019 retreat and many beyond.

To attend The Women’s Retreat, there is a cost involved, but it’s heavily subsidised by fundraising and many generous businesses whom donate their time and or products. This year fantastically, The Freemasons Foundation of Victoria came on board as a major sponsor and donated $20,000 to Peace of Mind for this event which meant all attendees no longer had to pay to attend. Giving the opportunity for anyone to come along. Going through this disease isn’t a cheap process, financial strains from a loss of income, bills for medications, surgeries, specialist appointments, all still while having to afford the everyday – rent/mortgage, school fees, food, utility bills…you name it. The list goes on.

So by having to have the opportunity to attend for free and forget about your worries for one weekend is just heavenly for everyone involved – patient or carer alike. After the hell that I and these women have been through and go through on a daily basis it’s a much needed and well deserved, break from reality.

Our amazing weekend went a little like this:

Friday – (Post hommus debacle) a BBQ dinner on the waterfront in Geelong, kindly put on by the Rotary Club of Torquay, followed by an optional few drinks out at a local bar (which of course I had to partake – would have been rude not too 😉).

Saturday, we started the day with a yoga session, followed by an amazing breakfast, swim & spa, massage, spray tan and then lunch out in a beautiful little venue in Geelong. Where they pumped up the tunes after lunch and everyone had a little dance, including even playing the good old nutbush! My younger days & memories from Netball Presentation nights in the early 90’s came flooding back to me as I jumped about kicking my legs and trying to remember the moves – which I might add, came pretty quickly. Something’s you never forget – just like riding a bike.

After lunch it was relax time once again, in the pamper room with beauty treatments galore – mani/pedi, neck & shoulder massages, mini facial, makeup & hair. I felt a million dollars with my makeup and hair done, my two stylists Marina & Jess really worked some absolute magic! No bald spot in sight. When speaking to them both during and thanking them for coming along they replied “why wouldn’t we… it’s a chance to give back and make people feel amazing”. Too true. Everyone looked & felt absolutely beautiful.

As soon as we were all glammed up, we had a cocktail party with two wonderful guest speakers – Marcella Zemaneck & Sean Purcell. Both told very inspirational stories, Marcella a widow of a brain cancer warrior, whom now works for the Charlie Teo Foundation. And Sean, who has found a completely new purpose in life after suffering a heart attack whilst running along the beach, clinically dying 3 times in 45mins. His amazing rescue team of complete strangers performed CPR whilst waiting for the air ambulance while he laid lifeless in shallow water. I listened in absolute awe and attempted to jot notes in between tears in the hope that I could utilise some of their story telling wisdom, for my upcoming guest speaking role next month.

Once the speakers were finished, I spoke to Sean (Purcell – not to be confused with husband of the same name – Sean) about my upcoming event and he kindly offered to help me bring it all together. When I mentioned about my short film ‘Terry the Bastard’ he knew instantly who I was, and any fear I had about doing my talk he quickly helped push aside. Thank you Sean!

The remainder of the night was spent on the good old dance floor, chatting to new beautiful friends, sharing stories, tears, hugs and not to mention some delicious cocktails, food and drinks. Followed by a good laugh at some of the dance moves being thrown about as the jute box and karaoke machine was in full swing.

Sunday after waking a little rusty, we all enjoyed a ride in the amazing selection of muscle cars provided by the Car clubs of Melbourne & Torquay as we cruised to Mt Duneed Estate & Provenance Wineries for wine tastings. Finishing up at a beautiful little pub for a sit down lunch and our final goodbyes to new friends and the wonderful weekend.

To Bec Piccone and her star studded volunteers at Peace of Mind – thank you for your tireless work and all you put in to make these events happen. Not just from me,  but no doubt from all your guests attending your wonderful retreats – women’s, men’s & family! Thank you for such a great weekend. I’m looking forward to 2019 already.

Should you be reading this and think you want to help next time in anyway shape or form – volunteer, fundraising, donations. Get in touch. Peace of Mind would welcome you with open arms.

Love Donna xxx

P.S. To my beautiful roomie for the weekend Julia and new friends thank you for a wonderful weekend. I wish you all nothing but the best in your journey with you own Terry’s and keep up the amazing support to your friends & family fighting these battles. You’re all nothing short of amazing.

A few snaps from the weekend, including my new wheels 😎… I wish… haha

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