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Alissa Jolowicz

Monday, April 6, 2015

Our story is no more unique than every other person and their loved ones, when given the diagnosis of cancer – although, it began four days before Christmas and only one month after my husband and I welcomed into the world our beautiful first born daughter. Most of our tears were silent and we pragmatically moved on to months of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and further chemotherapy. My parents willingly opened their home to care for us for ten months so we could be closer and support us through treatment, yet this meant my husband had to return home for three weekly stints seven hour’s drive away to support us financially. It was a lonely time for us both.

Money became even tighter and a holiday or a treat was too hard to even dream of. Finally, after ten months away, my daughter and I returned home to re-establish ourselves into our lives that I felt had been on hold for so long. Treatment was ongoing, work was challenging, the fatigue seemed to accumulate. 

I needed to regroup

Alissa Jolowicz

I remembered my breast care nurse from St Vincent’s in Sydney prompting me with a brochure to contact the OTIS Foundation months prior, but it was just too difficult to coordinate a stay between treatments, appointments and general life commitments. Yet when things really hit a wall, Krissy was there to take my choked up call, requesting five days away “wherever, whenever”. We were lucky enough to be graciously accommodated with a week’s notice.

Arriving at dusk was surreal, walking past the trickling pond to the huge oversized door of St Jude’s with the warmth and raw beauty of the rammed earth walls enveloping us. The privacy of the bush and the dam was like some healing landscape you could lose yourself in, with the kangaroos cocking their heads up from the scrub to check out the latest new arrival requiring some soothing solitude and peace. Our stay was time out of our everyday life and gave my husband and I the opportunity to reboot and reinvigorate our hopes and dreams for the future. It gave us the energy to move forward in life, however, I’m sure our daughter thought the bubbles in the spa and the pebbles in the courtyard were the highlight!

Ultimately, things haven’t turned out as I had planned and the last sixteen months has taught me some amazing lessons. Overall though, I catch myself saying we are lucky... lucky to have been given our miracle little daughter, lucky to both have such amazing selfless family support, lucky to have had confidence in my treating team, lucky to have been on maternity, annual and sick leave, and the list can go on to also include being lucky enough to have been gifted respite at St Jude’s - thank you.

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Each year The OTIS Foundation makes close to 4,000 nights available across its network of retreats at no cost to people dealing with breast cancer and their loved ones.

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