Some big tears were shed yesterday afternoon as I received this beautiful gift in the mail from the AGITG (Australian gastro intestinal trials group) and Merck. As I opened it and found myself looking at Kristian’s face, I got very teary as I realised this was what I had left of him; his legacy.
Not everybody knows this but we found out Kris was terminal the day after my husband Stuart and I got engaged. We were on vacation in New York at the time and to say it hit us like a sucker punch is an understatement. I spent the nights following the happiest day of my life in tears. Our engagement and to some extent, our wedding were an awkward exercise in learning to blend joy with overwhelming sorrow. But our wedding became my momentum. It carried me toward a future I could only crawl towards in my mind, a future where bowel cancer would no longer take loved ones away. A future where I would not cry alone in my bed, aching for what was taken from me each night. It took me step by step through my grief, and allowed me a welcome distraction in amongst all the bad news and heartbreak.
It’s been nearly three years since Kristian passed. December 26th marks three years since I last saw him in person, alive, but barely. The AGITG created the Kristian Anderson award to further develop bowel cancer research in the hope that one day we might have a cure for this disease. In his last two years of life, Kristian rallied the Australian government to subsidize the availability of Erbitux, allowing thousands of Australians battling bowel cancer a chance at life.
Opening this parcel I am blessed by the AGITG and their continued work to save lives. Having sat with them at their annual conference and hearing them talk about their amazing research, performing at their annual gala, which I was honoured to attend, I was amazed by their passion, dedication and genuine love for their work and also for my family. I was moved to tears hearing how entire offices at Merck have my brother’s picture hanging at their desks to remind them of why they do what they do.
And that’s why I don’t believe “big pharma” are “covering up the cure for cancer.” Hearing the recipient of this award talk about the hundreds of avenues cancer can take in a person, how every pathway of access for the cancer means an individual avenue of potential research and obstacles to overcome, how every individual reacts differently to the trials, it makes me realise how huge cancer really is. Even more so, it encourages me to know there are individuals out there like Danielle Ferraro (inaugural recipient of the Kristian Anderson award grant) who literally dedicate their lives, living on minimal wages to further research ways to find the cure. Every cent they have goes into their research. They are not in it for the money, there really isn’t any. They’re in it to save people.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. From every family who has lost to this diabolical disease. Thank you for literally trying to save the world, one research pathway at a time. Thank you for not giving up on the hope that one day, cancer will be curable. And thank you for this much prized possession which I can have in my home as a constant reminder of Kris; his legacy, his life, his laugh and his belief in the cure.
I’ve posted videos of my performance at the gala, scratches, pitching and all. After The Voice Australia, this was my first solo performance since Kristian had passed away. I could not have dreamed of a more encouraging, welcoming, appropriate audience to deliver this performance to. Thank you for giving me some airtime to slowly rebuild my passion once again.
The closing words on the card echo in my mind today.
Thank you for having faith in me, even when I might have lost it.