This is probably the toughest post I have ever had to write and I hope you will bear with me. 

We have had to change a few things in recent months to cope wiht the challenge that is COVID and so far I think we are doing well.

I know the news will spread so would rather spread it my way, in my words, than have it spread like chinese whispers. 

In the next few months we will have to make even more changes, but this time the reason is not a world wide pandemic, but a diagnosis.

You see I have been diagnosed with Myeloma, a blood cancer. It is not curable, and I will have a fight on my hands but I plan to be around for a good while yet. 

To go back to the beginning, I am lucky because the cancer was picked up by my GP purely by chance when I had a blood test for something else. In July last year I was told I had Smouldering Myeloma with a 20% chance of developing Myeloma. The specialist was very sure to emphasise that 80% of those with Smouldering Myeloma never develop Myeloma so I focused on that.

By October however, three days before our Annual Dinner, the Specialialist had changed his tune and he told me that he felt I would develop Myeloma at some point. He had no idea when, 12 months, 2 years… 

I was rather hoping that I would have a bit longer but we don’t always get what we want and now it is time to get on with it. 

I managed to scrape through the January check but last Friday I was diagnosed with Myeloma and will have to spend the rest of the year having chemo and then a stem cell transplant with the aim of achieving remission late this year or early next year. Timings depend on COVID really as they are not doing Stem Cell Transplants at the moment. Hopefully by the time I am ready they will be doing the transplants again. 

Initially I thought it  was bad timing but now I reckon this is good timing as will hopefully be in remission and able to enjoy our tenth anniversary year next year!

I am told that the chemo will not be too disruptive and I should be able to work through it and continue to drive. That should take me up to the end og August.
I now have several weeks to get AHQ organised to be run by someone else and that is exactly what I am doing now. I have good people stepping up. I need people  I now have a good local team thankfully and we are slowly heading in the right direction.
I know some of you will tell me to look after myself and put myself first but Aussie Heroes is too important to me to let it falter so I need to put good people in place to caretake for me so I CAN concentrate on my health.  

What I want everyone on deployment to know is that Aussie Heroes will continue to look after you all even, in my absence. Please don’t do anything differently. We will make the changes we need to back here and if any changes require action from our deployed members you will be advised.  I hope that makes sense.
So, to the way ahead. 

I am being greatly supported by the two gentlemen who form the Board of Directors. They  are Air Marshal  “Leo” Davies, AO, CSC, who was the Chief of Air  Force until the  middle of last year.  Our second Board Member is CAPT Guy Blackburn.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate these two gentlemen and how much support they have given me in the relatively few months we have been working together.  We also have a great company secretary in Michelle Fulton and a wonderful Event Planner, Eden Santos. They have all offered me their full support in the coming months. 

I won’t mention too many other names just yet because I am just at the beginning of a phase of approaching and training that will see several people take over various roles in my absense – the administration of the request list, the coordination of the activities of the WPH ladies, the coordination of the compassionate quilts and sooo many other facets that come together to make  up the Aussie Heroes organisation, many of which most of you would not even be  aware of. 

In the coming months there will be several simple changes that will involve others taking over the various parts of Aussie Heroes.  I hope you will give all the individuals involved every bit as much support as you have given me. I will keep you posted as things develop with Aussie Heroes and expect the transition to go fairly smoothly.

I love running Aussie Heroes. I love interacting with our volunteers and our recipients. I consider myself incredibly blessed and privileged to be able to do what I do.  We have the best, the absolute best volunteers.  I have no bucket list as such, the only travel I want to do is to visit AMAB one day when I am well enough.. if COVID permits… and so I will be quite content to get through this next challenge and then get back into coordinating Aussie Heroes as soon as I can.

I am not going anywhere too soon but wanted to give you a heads up of the changes that will be comig in the future.  As I said, I know that this information will get out there no matter what and I would rather release it on my terms, in my words. 

Till next time…. 

Jan-Maree xx