When I wrote a particular blog entry on the 21st April 2016 about the messages I heard from Jacob that came in the words of a beautiful song written by Conrad Sewell ‘Remind me’ I never really knew how much that song would mean to me a few years from then. I have my own personal reasons to dislike the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ – how can we say this when you’ve lost a child? There is a variant of this phrase I prefer to use – ‘we don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.’ These words hold more truth as we travel through life on an unknown, uncharted & unexplored path.
The way I’ve written the sentence about the path makes it sound like an eternity has past in time but I’m really only talking about 2 years and 10months exactly since I wrote the blog ‘all my life…you’ll remind me.’ I will share the link here if you’d like to read the blog entry….https://wieckling.com/2016/04/21/all-my-life-youll-remind-me/
Fast forward to the date of 19th October 2018…. I was given the opportunity to meet Conrad Sewell at the very hospital where Jacob was treated and amongst his beautiful team of nurses. As the 3rd angelversary of Jacob’s passing was approaching I was contacted by his clinical nurse consultants letting me know they were thinking of us during this time. Also in the text I was asked if I would be okay with them passing on my name to the Sony Foundation ‘YouCan’ project which raises money for youth cancer centres. Every year they do an event called Wharf4ward and they usually tell the story of a young person at the event. They wanted to talk to families who lived a distance away from treating hospitals and the challenges of trying to manage being away from home. With me being me how could I not agree for them to call me and ask questions.
I shared my thoughts answering the many questions to shed light on the required subject. The firsthand accounts of what the experience was like is so vital for the understanding of the unmet needs for families like us. There are so many challenges beyond the trauma of dealing with your child going through cancer….the travel, giving up your job, the out of pocket expenses, the loneliness of being away from home…..
The Sony Foundation general manager was delighted with my honest and sometimes brutal answers and I was asked if I was comfortable sharing our story for a short video that would be shown at their major fundraising event on October 25 to help communicate the issues regional patients/their families face. With Jacob’s love of making movies and his career choice of becoming an cinematographer I thought I’d take the opportunity to be a part of the event and be amongst some of the equipment he loved to play and work with. I agreed to be interviewed and filmed along with other key speakers who were sharing their experiences. I quickly learned that one of the people being interviewed was Jacob’s high school friend Mikaila – who had been recently diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma as well and was getting treated at the same hospital, under the same team as Jacob. The two families joined together by childhood friendships and devastating diagnoses of a similar disease car pooled together to the hospital to bare our souls in front of a camera. Here’s a few photo of the two of them together – one at their year 10 formal and the other one Mikaila visiting Jacob in hospital only a few weeks before his passing.
I played Conrad’s song ‘remind me’ on my phone to Mikaila and her mum Lisa as we drove up in the car. It was the only time I cried on the day. I told them that sometimes I can sing that song ‘loud and proud’ and other times it brings tears. That’s the power of music. Conrad had been given an opportunity to be a voice with his singing and spoken words at the Sony Foundation’s cancer fundraiser and would perform at the Wharf4ward event and we were meeting him at the hospital for the interview and filming. The Sony Foundation’s Communications manager welcome us with open arms when we arrived at the hospital. I had my self-published book in my bag with the heavy thumbed pages turned back to a particular story. My fourth entry in my blog – ‘All my life…you’ll remind me’ – a story where I quote lyrics from Conrad’s song and related them to what had happened to Jacob and our family. I was like school girl going on a first date with my heart such a flutter as I put my hand out to meet him, only to be pulled in for a huggable hello. I proudly showed him the page where his song was mentioned. He was really touched at how much the song meant to me and he signed my book with the words – ‘you inspire me, thank you for this, love Conrad x.’ Conrad serenaded Mikaila with his new single ‘healing hands’ the perfect song to sing to a young girl fighting cancer. On this day I was sharing Jacob’s story and it was hard to stop smiling. Jacob would have been proud as I was interviewed to help with awareness. Jacob would have been in awe of all the equipment the camera crew were using as this was his specialty. I showed them some of Jacob’s photos he’d taken while working on different sets and they were commenting on the elaborate equipment he’d used in his work.
Just a week later from our interview and filming, Mikaila, her mum Lisa, my son Ben and I attended the 10th Wharf4ward event with entertainers such as Jessica Mauboy, John Farnham and Conrad performing his new singles ‘healing hands’ and ‘changing.’ We were rubbing shoulders with high profile people, yet we all felt equal for we were doing it for such a great cause. I finally got to meet Emma, the person I had been corresponding with emails, it was lovely to finally put a face to a voice and feel their emotion in a greeting. I felt Jacob with me as the event unfolded. We got to meet Conrad again at the event and it felt surreal that he remembered us and opened his arms to draw us in for another hello hug. Ben was given a YouCan t-shirt to be apart of the parade with Mikaila before the event officially started in front of the 1,000 guests. We met up with Jacob’s team of nurses Cath and Fiona, and oncologist Antionette on the day as well. Jacob would have been very proud of his brother and friend. The event officially raised a record $1.4 million dollars for youth cancer centres. As I opened the event program magazine which was resting on my plate on the table to page 3 I saw a photo of myself and a little paragraph of words they’d taken from my interview. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience when the footage from our interview were shown. I held Lisa’s hand as we both cried watching the video on a big screen. Two mums proud of their children.
Jacob had shared his own wishes to improve the facilities for young adults facing cancer. He expressed his concerns of needing a place where he could be in the company of others his age instead of being in an adult ward with people in their 80’s and 90’s and have access to wifi so he could keep connected with family and friends being so far away from home. He never really got to witness any of these improvements happen but it’s comforting to know that we are still making a difference on his behalf because of these fundraising events we are proud to support. The Sydney YouCan Centre will open this year at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, owing largely to the $7 million raised at Wharf2ward events. I wish the Sony Foundation and YouCan organisations had the pleasure of meeting Jacob during the time of his treatment and care, and get to know the beautiful young lad he was (and still is). I have to continue to share his story to keep his spirit and memory alive and to continue to help fund specialist youth cancer centres and services around Australia. Below is his interview expressing his wishes of what needed to be improved while in hospital having treatment.
‘Important encounters are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other’ – Paulo Coelho….maybe I was meant to meet Conrad Sewell, maybe it was coincidence….’well look who I ran in to,’ crowed Coincidence. ‘Please,’ flirted Fate, ‘this was meant to be.’