“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I don’t know Kate Harcourt.
But I know her story. And if you don’t, I recommend you do.
Early December, Kate was a mother of three, a loving wife with boundless enthusiasm an endless passion for her children’s growth and nurturing, directing her to press pause on her teaching career.
It’s mid-July. Kate is still a mother of three, a loving wife and still possesses an endless passion for her children’s growth and nurturing.
But the boundless enthusiasm is a work in progress and teaching career is still on pause.
Plans for a trip to China have also been on hold, as Kate, back in December, felt ready to welcome 2015 with fresh hopes and aspirations.
I was totally oblivious of what lay around the corner. Isn’t that always the cue for sort of bombshell?
On December 9, in the shower and mid-scrub, Kate’s world turned upside-down in the form of a lump beneath her right armpit.
Some questions in this world, you’ll never get answered; it’s answers to complex, too significant for our insignificant minds to process.
You just accept the sun means day and the moon and stars mean night.
You accept that a smile means joy and tears means it hurts. Most of the time.
I don’t accept cancer. I don’t accept that for all the villainous, unmotivated, hate-driven people in the world, it seems that it’s always the good ones who this infuriating disease seems to always infect.
But for this unwillingness to accept; stubbornness is quickly overshadowed by realism, much like Kate’s life became blanketed by a disease that is only superficially understood by the other half of men and other two thirds of women, who’ve been pigeonholed by statistics not to be affected by cancer.
It’s a word and a disease that sends a shiver down our spine before we investigate its aggressiveness, location and severity.
I remember sitting in the school theatrette in Year 12 and being numbed by my English teacher, Rosanna Comastri’s announcement that she had developed cancer.
I remember sitting in the Carlton Football Club theatrette just a year later when Sam Rowe forgot pre-planned jokes, and fought back tears to tell teammates – grown men he’d just met – that he’d development cancer.
Both Rosanna and Sam are alive and well. Rosanna has continued pursuing her passion for education and the spiritual development of young men and women. Sam is in the leadership group at Carlton and shies away from descriptions of being labelled ‘courageous’.
For something that I don’t have first-hand experience of – and I hope I never happen to – both of these two and, in my most recent observation, Kate, carry ‘courage’ in spades.
Three weeks following the confirmation of her worst fear, Kate put pen to paper. Not to wallow, not labour in self-despair, but to recall, and to give a helping hand.
Kate’s blog Cancer Cans is (currently) a blow-by-blow journal-like depiction of her eight-month journey of a woman who has witnessed hell and is passing through customs, on her way back to her normal life.
A keen writer with an eye for detail and a no-holds-barred excellence for description, Kate takes you on an expedition that is well-researched in its explanation, light-hearted in its prose, raw in its honesty and contains an open-endedness at the conclusion of each blog post that leaves you wanting more.
It’s not the voyeuristic curiosity of an audience reading Confidential, it’s Kate’s ability to bring the audience into her world where the reader is taken through every road bump and every minor celebration. Each experience carrying as much weight as the next.
Almost 16,000 Australians – men and women – have been diagnosed with breast cancer already in 2015, with a six per cent figure losing their battle.
Kate’s story could just as easily dissolve into the many other cases of the hideous disease. But it’s the want to vocalise the trials, tribulations, roadblocks and celebrations, plus the motivation to provide support for those who have suffered a similar fate – in first- or second-hand experience – that makes her tale stand out.
Just as momentous is the establishment of the charity in her name, Something For Kate – a not-for-profit foundation set up by school friends with the backing of independent brands, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Australian singer-songwriter, Kate Cebrano.
The foundation was set up at the beginning of this year by Kate’s school friends, empowered to raise funds for the support of her family and the contribution to funding research for breast cancer.
In a week where human compassion was tested on a national scale, no such doubts could be raised over the values of Kate’s support network.
On Sunday 11 October, Something For Kate will come together for gala fundraising luncheon.
Kate’s latest blog posts detail the overwhelming emotion she feels at the deserved generosity being directed her away, as well as continuing to embark on her road to recovery involving doing the things that were taken away from her for the best part of six months.
The opening line to her last post – just as much as her story – poses an energising question to all of us who can feel rutted by this weathered path that is life: when was the last time you did something for the first time?
So Kate, from someone who does not know you, but knows your story, thank you.
This may not be on behalf of all breast cancer sufferers, but on behalf of someone who can feel like the world is against them from time to time.
It’s not over until it’s over, and for Kate – strong in character and articulate in her fight – ‘over’ is still a long way away.
The Something For Kate Gala Luncheon will be held at Maia waterfront restaurant, Central Pier Docklands on Sunday, October 11. Tickets include a live auction and live entertainment Kate Cebrano, plus a two-course lunch and three-hour beverage package. For full information on ticketing and the event, contact Rebecca 0405 099 938 or Kerry 0403 608 467.