A Life Beyond the Ordinary - Part 2

This week Inside My Journal, we dive back into the pages of Kaye's journal as she takes us through Part 2 of her life lived beyond the ordinary. Kaye shares her journey from motherhood and divorce to surviving cancer twice, getting remarried and how at the age of 60 she is now redefining herself in retirement.

Kaye is a warrior. She is brave, fierce and has a smile that will light up the room. Kaye's story is one of hope, triumph and above all else a story of the human spirit. She will motivate you, inspire you and truly show you that beyond it all, through the pain, heartache, lessons and love, life is worth living to the fullest each and every day. From a shy girl to a defiant woman, she is the epitome of strength and courage. Oh, and did I mention she's my Mum!

If you missed Part 1 of Kaye's story last week you can read it here.

This is a story that deserves to be told.

Now, let's turn the pages of Kaye's journal...

Part 2

If you read part 1 of my story last week then I'm sure by now you're thinking what else could possible happen in my life? That was just the beginning!

Rewind back to me at the age of 21 having my first baby girl. I was so excited to hold my baby for the first time and start this exciting new chapter of my life. The delivery of my first baby went for 24 hours and didn't go as planned. Due to a mismanaged delivery she suffered swelling on the brain and and was rushed by ambulance to a larger hospital in the city. The pain of her being taken away was excruciating and her future looked so uncertain. I was then told by Hospital staff that she may not survive and they proceeded to ask me if I wanted a priest. A priest I thought, NO! All I want is my baby girl! I was so angry at them even asking me that question. I felt like they weren't even giving her a chance. The pain of the reality that I might lose another person in my life was so hard to bare. I had become accustomed to loss in my life and I just couldn't do it again. Over the days after the delivery, I was driven to the hospital once a day to where my baby was to express milk for her. As this amazing source of life poured out of me, I sat and looked at mu darling girl in her humidicrib. I cried countless tears just willing her to live.

Luckily for my husband and I, our baby girl was a fighter too and after a week of heartbreak of not knowing what outcome we would be faced with, the swelling on her brain had settled and I could begin to feel that I had escaped the heartache of loss this time. Life gave me the blessing of her surviving and this is something I have never taken for granted. I loved being a Mum. For as long as I can remember, from a very young age, all I wanted was to be married with two little girls that I could love and protect. The pieces of my life were finally coming back together and I was well on the way to living my dream life.

Three years later, life blessed me again when I found out I was pregnant with another little girl and my life seemed so complete. I was deeply grateful for another little blessing that I was about to bring into the world. After the stress and trauma from my first delivery, I promised myself and my baby that this time was going to be different. I learnt all about relaxation and meditation (the start of another path which is quite ironic as my daughter is now a Meditation Teacher). I would listen to calming music at night and talk to this little darling inside me saying that we were going to be ok. On the day I went into labour, I felt so positive and prepared for a wonderful birth and 1 and a half hours later arrived this gorgeous little baby, with thick black hair and eyes wide open. She was just beautiful and she was ready to be part of our family! Our family was complete and we were ready to love these gorgeous girls to bits!

Life progressed with my little family of four but by the age of 30 it was evident my happy marriage to the person I thought was going to be my husband forever was not in good shape. I take just as much responsibility for this as him and on reflection I can now see that the relationship changed slowly over time. We became like sister and brother rather than a couple and it was through this drifting apart that we both knew we wanted each other to be happier. That we could remain friends but that our romantic paths were no longer aligned. I remember our last moments at home together as a family of four, I went into the bedroom where he was standing and we just hugged and I said, "I hope you will be happy" and he wished me the same. We closed the door and we both went our separate ways forever, only ever connecting for the sake of our daughters along the way. My daughters maintained a beautiful relationship with their Dad, something I encouraged along the way and something I will forever be grateful for. We promised each other we wouldn't let anything or anyone come in-between the relationship each of us shared with our girls. I'm go grateful that we both kept our word. Our intention for us to remain friends, while genuine at the time, was hard in reality especially as he went on to remarry a few years after our divorce. The truth is, this brought a great deal of sadness to me for many years. This man had been there for me through the loss of both of my parents, seen me through a major back operation and was the father of my babies, I so desperately wanted us to remain friends. I had to accept though that this would be another loss in my life. One that I amicably chose but one that still hurt all the same.

"I so desperately wanted us to remain friends. I had to accept though that this would be another loss in my life"

Single parenting for the 18 years that followed my divorce was the hardest yet most rewarding time of my life. The joy both of my daughters gave me far outweighed the challenges we faced. I relished in the time we had together. When I stepped into the world of single parenting, I had two girls, 8 and 5 years old, who needed me. We loved each other unconditionally and that was all we needed. The Three Musketeers we called ourselves!

I slowly started to heal after my divorce and settle into the new routine with my girls when life decided it was time for another challenge. It was a few years later that I was told I had a brain tumour. I was devastated. I wanted to raise my girls! I wanted to see them grow. The uncertainty and fear of what was ahead was quite debilitating yet I knew I had to keep it altogether for the sake of my girls. I felt quite alone on this journey. I knew I had the support of my girls but they were still so young. It was up to me and me alone. I was given the choice of surgical removal of this benign tumour or try medication. I went for the option of medication and “wait and see”. Besides, I didn’t have time for surgery, I had to work and provide for my girls.

During this time I was not only suffering mentally with all I was faced with, I was also suffering financially. The loss of income due to my health led to us losing our family home. I could no longer afford to pay the mortgage on my own and we would have to move. How was I going to tell my daughters they were moving? That I had to sell the house?. "See those pictures on the walls, your bedspreads, your books and our music? We're taking them to another house and we'll make it our new home". It broke my heart that I had failed them. I lost the security I'd craved for them and worked so hard to maintain for such a long time as a single Mum. The main thing though, and something I would always tell my girls, is that we were together. Home was the 3 of us and we can make anywhere we go fun and safe. So there I was, with a brain tumor having just lost our family home, with no money, no parents and not many friends? What was I to do? Like always, I made the best with what life gave me and I chose to make the best of what we had. The funniest moments I remember was taking the girls to the supermarket at midnight just for fun! Letting them have mud fights in the back yard until we all cried with laughter. Sitting up talking about everything and anything. I just let them be kids and I chose to laugh along with them because if you don't laugh you'll cry and I was sick of crying! To this day they are my best friends, my confidantes, my loves, my security and my happy place.

"I lost the security I'd craved for them and worked so hard to maintain for such a long time as a single Mum"

Through the long road of uncertainty, ups and down with my health, I'm so lucky to say that the years of waiting worked in my case and after many years of medication my tumour shrunk and has not been seen on an MRI since! Thank you Universe. It was a long road and not one I can say was easy but I'm forever grateful that I am still here to share this story.

Over those years I didn’t really have the opportunity to have friendships. At the time I felt not having much money was quite embarrassing. So, if I was asked to go for drinks after work or out for dinner I would politely decline with some weak excuse that I had other plans or I couldn't make it for some reason or another. The truth is, at the time I could barely afford to put food on the table so a social life was way out of the realm of my reality. The thing is though, I never felt like I was going without. I was comfortable saying no to going out and meeting people. I was happy with my life at home with my girls.

Time progressed quickly as it does and before I knew it the girls were 19 and 16. Around this time I had an opportunity to go interstate for work (by then I was way over putting pyjamas on layby for $2 a week and working out different ways I could make dinner on $5 a night). It was time to seize the day and make a huge change in my life for me and for my girls. So I took the girls out for dinner at a lovely restaurant (a huge expense at the time but I wanted to do this right!) and we talked about the opportunity. They both insisted I go and said "why not?", they wanted more for me (and I wanted more for them). So that was it, I took the job and a few weeks later I headed off in a car with some basics as my sister drove me up to Queensland to begin the next chapter of my crazy life. As I waved goodbye to my girls it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. I loved my daughters like no other but I knew this move would give us a better life and that is what kept me focused on why I had made this huge change in my life.

Thank goodness it did because I was swiftly promoted and within 12 months had more than doubled my income. I continued to work and work and work not knowing at the time that one move would start a 15 year career that would see me move from Queensland to Melbourne and back to Sydney. Over the years, I would mentor and be mentored by some incredible people. It was exhilarating. Managing teams and working towards goals and always achieving them! I worked with some incredible people and learnt so much about myself and others. Over the years as a Manager I was told my management style was “nurturing”. This was the biggest compliment I could've ever received, I loved caring for people, developing them and seeing them fly the coop and be promoted within the company. It always gave me immense satisfaction and is something I am so proud that I've achieved in this lifetime.

While all this was going on, I regularly visited my girls in Sydney and they would often fly to see me. By this time they were now were finding their way in the world as young women and exploring everything the world had to offer them. There are many a stories that can be told but I'll leave this for them to tell. All I can say is, it's actually quite funny that I would naively think they were home at midnight when they would text me to say they were home from clubbing and all was safe and well. I’m sure there are some stories I still don't know that they laugh about. The most important thing is the Universe kept them safe and for that I am truly grateful.

As my career progressed I accepted a Managerial role back in Sydney. Finally my end goal of being financially secure and back with my girls was coming true. As happens in life though this wouldn't be for long as both of my girls met their soulmates and moved out of home ready to build a new family of their own. It was bitter sweet seeing my girls move out of home. On the one hand I was so excited for them that they'd met lovely men and were ready to embrace the next phase of their lives but on the other hand I felt so lonely without them. All I knew was the 3 of us and it was another loss I had to endure. A different loss but still challenging all the same, seeing them so happy though was worth every tear I shed.

Around this time, after being single for 18 years and being faced with the reality that I was now somewhat solo again I made the huge decision to redefine my happiness, for me! I met a beautiful man. A quiet, kind and very down to earth guy. I have to admit, it totally freaked me out! Even though I was ready for love in my life again I was still thinking "What? A relationship for me?". After being single for so long it was scary territory. I think I lived in a state of anxiety for quite some time, years to be honest. I was just so used to losing those I loved that it was hard for me to welcome love back into my life in this way. Bit by bit though, he helped me overcome many demons. The patience he had was nothing short of amazing and I certainly put him through his paces. He made me feel like life could be lived again and that there was this whole world ahead that I'd never imagined. Then, we went on a holiday which would change our lives forever. For some reason everything just fell into place. We were having a romantic dinner on a beach in Thailand and we just knew. We knew we were meant to be together for the rest of our lives. That night was the most romantic of my life. It was simple but it was the simplicity that made it even more perfect. The sand on my feet, the pretty lights across the water, the Thai children playing, it was just perfect! We saw there were lanterns that you could wish on and send up into the sky, so I made my wish. We married when I turned 51. The honour of having my daughters walk me down the aisle to this man who I loved was such a highlight of my life. He made me feel loved, that I was worthy of love and that I was safe. I embraced our new married life together and it was just bliss. Well at least for the first 6 months.

"I think I lived in a state of anxiety for quite some time, years to be honest. I was just so used to losing those I loved that it was hard for me to welcome love back into my life"

6 months into our marriage I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Come on! You've got to be kidding! Not now! I’ve got an amazing husband, 2 beautiful daughters, 2 lovely son-in laws and 3 gorgeous grandchildren! Really? I remember sitting in a café with my husband, him calling my son-in-laws and asking them to rally the family, we needed to see them. I sat in the café and it broke my heart to see my husband with his eyes welling up with tears and me knowing I was about to break my children’s hearts as I told them I had cancer. How do you tell your children you have malignant cancer? The hardest part was seeing their sadness and knowing that I had caused this sadness for them. This time, I couldn’t tell them everything was going to be alright. The road throughout my bowel cancer journey felt long and it took its toll on all of us. I was to go in for bowel surgery and have the cancer removed not knowing at the time if I would have to follow this up with radiation. After the surgery I was told that I wouldn't require any further treatment and it appeared that the surgeon was able to remove all of the cancer during the operation. I was overjoyed but knew I had a long road ahead. Each check up is nerve wracking, each perceived glimpse of a symptom rocks your world. But again, the fighter in me emerged and I beat it! 7 years on and I'm now classified as a survivor and am in remission. There's not a day that goes by that I don't thank my lucky stars. I'm go grateful and humbled that I still have time on this Earth with those I love.

Life has continued to evolve for us all and it hasn't been without its challenges. Mainly for my daughters who, along with their children, have had to endure health challenges of their own (more on this another time!).

Recently, the most challenging loss has been the sudden and unexpected passing of my first husband. Getting a call from my daughters telling me to get to the hospital was such a shock and truly devastating. That night in the hospital was filled with ups and down. We would have hope of his survival and then hope would be lost only to come back again just for a brief moment. Seeing the trauma and heartache my girls were going through was completely devastating. This time I couldn’t work hard to make it better, I couldn’t create a game and make them laugh. I couldn’t make anything better for them. All I could do is be there when they need me, hug them when they needed it and give them space when they asked.

When the time came that he did pass I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to say my final goodbye to the father of my children, the man that had supported me so much early on in my life. In all honestly, I'd never seen a deceased person before and it scared me. I remember holding onto my daughter so tight to get to his bedside without my legs giving way. When I saw him though it was not scary at all. He looked so at peace and I just knew he was in a better place. I thanked him for our daughters and talked about how beautiful they turned out. I held his hand briefly and thanked him for the times we shared. It doesn’t sound right to say, but I feel lucky that I had this time. Even though we weren't ever to regain our friendship over the years, life gave me the chance to say goodbye and I'm eternally grateful for that.

So what is life like now?

Well my latest chapter is retirement and as with much of my life, it didn’t come without a few challenges along the way. I believed I was all sorted to work until I was 75! I wanted to keep working well into later in my life and I expected this to be the case because in my current job I could work from home. Previously, over the past 5 years I had changed my career from a managerial role where there was a lot of stress, to a more customer focused role that was less physically and mentally challenging. Unfortunately my plans for working into the future and perhaps working my way back up the corporate ladder were not echoed by my employer. So, at the age of 60 I suffered bullying, ageism and discrimination. It came to a head one day at work and I remember calling my husband and saying “do you support me in finishing this up?”, of which he did. I rang my daughters and got their advise as well. I had already struggled with turning 60 in my own way for various reasons and now this was right in my face! I wasn’t wanted any more!

It was a horrible feeling and many demons from my past raised their ugly heads. What was I going to do? I was too shy to change to another job and to be honest I didn't have the self-confidence to start going to interviews again. What else could I do? I was basically being told I was washed up and so yes, I took that on board. I was washed up! I was scared and couldn’t see a way out! I felt defeated. It took me a little while but as always, after feeling the love and support of my inner circle, I found a sense of hope. That inner warrior, that I'd come to know so well over the years, spoke up and said, "come on you can do this! Don’t let them beat you!". I sensed and knew that life was changing and the only way for me to move forward was to embrace it. I needed to redefine who I was, what I wanted to do. It was well and truly time to find passion and enjoy what I was doing again.

My husband and I now run an Air BNB which I absolutely love. When it's not booked out we stay there up in the suburbs near my daughters and when we get a booking we stay at our little weekender down the South Coast which we purchased with some of my superannuation money when I decided to retire. I call it our little weekender even though it's a caravan because to us it's our second home and we are proud as punch! We have worked hard and now it is time to reap the rewards. We aren’t rich money wise and some people probably look at us and ask, "why don’t we build up more wealth?" But if there is one thing I've learnt in life it's that money comes and goes, wealth to me is found in family and memories not in a bank account. I have a different richness in life that I am so very very grateful for.

I lead a simple life that makes me happy and I do have a sense of safety in simple pleasures. I have my family and that’s all I need. I've lived my life embracing simple pleasures because they are what brings the most comfort to me, especially during challenging times. The smell of a gorgeous rose in the garden, walking through a rainforest, going for lunch with my daughters or popping over to see them for a cuppa. Sitting around in my trackies, chilling and watching the grand kids be cheeky and driving my daughters crazy sometimes (the inner chuckle is always a pleasure), the soft touch of my husbands hand holding mine as we walk. These are the things that light me up.

So that’s the journey of my 60 years in life so far. I’m not one to look back and wear the badge of sadness forever. I believe there's always hope that tomorrow will be better and it's this belief that saw my through the most challenging times in my life.

"I’m not one to look back and wear the badge of sadness forever. I believe there's always hope that tomorrow will be better"

I often sit back, take a breath and think of how that 5 year old shy little girl walked down that corridor not knowing what was ahead but was happy with what the day gave her and today I'm just the same. After everything I've been through, I can appreciate that if one event or the another hadn't happened in my life (good or bad!) I would've missed out on so much love and so many lessons along the way.

My biggest lessons would have to be this. Each moment is precious, treat it as such. Believe that wishes do come true, because more often than not they do! Material things are less necessary than you think, the people you have in your life is what counts. That no matter how hard life seems, you can always have fun and show love! Cuddles, kisses, jokes, love, laughter, silliness and craziness all come free and they are the glue that keeps everything together. And remember, that love comes to you when you're ready! Never give up on love or yourself.

Oh and one last thing because I want this documented somewhere so my husband and daughters are truly sure of my intentions (said with a grin and a laugh!). When I leave Earth side one day all I want on my gravestone is this, "she was a good Mum!" (My husband has asked for a p.s. to add and wife! So I guess I can allow that too). I also want love heart balloons at my funeral. Come on, let’s celebrate what life has been for me when that time comes! Life is a celebration!

Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Writing my story has been so cathartic and such an unexpected healing experience for me. I've had to find bravery in telling parts of my story that have remained hidden for years and I've had such great joy in sharing the highlights of my life. I'm forever grateful that I finally got to tell my story.

With deepest gratitude, Kaye.

I'm humbled and honoured that I could give Mum a platform to share her story, especially those parts which have remained hidden for years under a cloud of shame. Inside My Journal exists to give a voice to our shadows, to allow them to finally be brought into the light. If you missed Part 1 of Kaye's story you can read it here.

If you've enjoyed peeking inside my journal I would love to hear from you. Please feel welcomed and encouraged to comment below or on my Instagram feed @stillwithsammy and share your story as we rise up as one collective voice. Or, if you have a story you'd like featured on Inside My Journal email me at hello@stillwithsammy.com.au.

I'd also be very grateful if you shared this post with anyone you feel would love to read it.

Until next time, I wish you well. May you shine bright, always.

Love, Sammy xoxo


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