THE FIGHT TO CURE CANCER
Hi everyone - it's Maha here, Sally's sister. As some of you may know, Sal and I are super close. Not only did we create SWIISH.com together, we work side by side on it every day. We wrote Super Green Smoothies together, launched our online store and our 30 Day Challenges and in a few months, we will be releasing our next book. But more than just being sisters and business partners, we are best friends.
We live down the street from each other, we hang out as much as we can and although at times we bicker and irritate one another (ok, let's get real - that happens quite often haha!), there's nothing we wouldn't do for the other. The fact that I am lucky enough to call my sister my best friend, is a blessing that isn't lost on me.
As some of you may know, in late 2011 Sal was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer - a rare and aggressive type, a tumour that took only around 3 months to grow to the size of a tennis ball. And at the same time, she was 41 weeks pregnant with Annabelle. If you have read Sal's book, Never Stop Believing, or heard her speak publicly about her experience, you will have heard her describe the shock of her diagnosis. It was completely out of the blue - she felt very healthy and there were no warning signs. The prognosis was bleak and there were many times we thought she might not make it - but she fought with all her might, and after 18 months of multiple surgeries, rounds of heavy chemo and radiation, she was declared cancer-free.
Before Sal was sick, cancer had never really touched our lives. It was always something that happened to other people's parents or grandparents - it seemed like it was an older person's disease. As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. Cancer affects everyone. Since Sal's diagnosis, we have had many close friends and family who have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer. We've heard many similar stories from our friends and through our SWIISH.com community and our Wish By SWIISH charitable initiative. Young, old and in between - cancer doesn't discriminate. Cancer affects us all.
As a family member supporting a loved one who was suffering from this terrible disease, I felt very helpless. Although I went to hold Sal's hand during chemo, I couldn't take away the pain. And as much as I could cook a meal here and there or look after Annabelle, I couldn't do anything for Sal. She had to fight on her own. It's very difficult to see those you love suffer so much, and to this day, the tears fall freely whenever I am asked about that time. And yet - Sal was one of the lucky ones who made it through. Many others fight their hardest but sadly, lose their battles. For us, this includes Sal's beautiful mother-in-law Margitta, who battled cancer three times in her life but sadly passed away just before Christmas.
I recall Sal's oncologist saying that part of the reason why Sal survived is that firstly, it was detected early - she found a lump and knew to say something to her doctor immediately - and secondly, we have made significant advancements in cancer treatment. Had Sal been diagnosed 10 years earlier, she would not have had a hope. But it's still not enough. We have a long way to go. Too many are still diagnosed. Too many are still losing their battles.
One way I have tried to give back, and to feel less helpless. is by being involved in efforts to raise awareness of cancer and fundraise for a cure. An initiative I have been part of for a few years now is the Shitbox Rally. It's the leading independently-run fundraiser for the Cancer Council, and was created by my good friend, James Freeman. James founded the Rally in 2010 after he lost both his mother and father to cancer only a year apart. The concept he came up with was simple - drive shitty cars worth less than $1,000 across the Australian outback. Dirt road driving, river crossings, car breakdowns, camping every night and showering with frogs and locusts was tough at times - but what I got back was seeing our incredible country in a whole new way, and forming many friendships and bonds through a community who want to take action and fight cancer together. And that community have together through the Shitbox Rally, raised over $6.1 million dollars for cancer research over the last 6 years. Just incredible.
This February, the Shitbox Rally is taking its efforts across the Tasman and launching in New Zealand for the first time - I'll be heading over there in a few weeks time, and participating with one of my best friends, Ruth. Ruth is also all too familiar with cancer affecting her family and friends, and feels just as passionately about making a difference where she can. We have done the Rally together before and she makes for a super fun co-driver. Ruth had the wonderful idea of dressing up as rock stars the last time we participated and it made for many laughs and conversation starters.
We plan on continuing the musical theme and bringing a little sparkle by dressing up as pop stars this time - think Britney, the Spice Girls and Tina Turner to name just a few. We'll be posting updates on my Instagram @maha_koraiem and Facebook (link here), so feel free to follow and see all the fun.
We have an ambitious fundraising target of $5,000 so if you would like to donate to our team (money goes to the Cancer Council), then we would be eternally grateful. You can find our fundraising page here.
And if you're keen to sign up for one of the Shitbox Rallies (you don't have to know anything about cars - trust me!) - either in Australia or abroad (they have mini-rallies too, called Mystery Box), then check out the website here. I can't recommend it enough.
For anyone who has donated or participated in fundraising events for cancer - or any illness or disease for that matter - you rock! Thank you for your kindness, generosity and helping to make a difference to so many. I hope to do you all proud.
Love, Maha xx