Michelle Jones, lovingly known amongst her friends as MJ, lives what you would call a pretty normal life. Normal but far from ordinary. Michelle is 34 years old, a mother, business owner, sister, friend to many and competes in triathlons for fitness and fun. Although Michelle has experienced something many of us have not, yet so many still have and will in the future. Cancer. The “Big C”. Whatever you like to call it, it’s a scary word indeed. Even scarier is the fact that at some stage in your life, either you, or someone close to you, will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. Some of these battles will be won, but unfortunately some will be lost.
Michelle was just 24 years old when she was diagnosed with a life threatening cancer known as Myelofibrosis, a disorder of the bone marrow and form of Leukemia.
Not only was Michelle young, but also a new mother to gorgeous twins Annabelle and Oliver, who at the time were only 18 months old. The situation was critical, and Michelle underwent a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy. It was a hard fought battle, but a battle that Michelle won. It’s a story that needs to be told, needs to be shared, as it is all too common in our society today. Michelle not only won her battle with cancer, but now lives an active and healthy life. Post cancer she discovered triathlon, and competes on a regular basis for her club in Sydney.
This weekend Michelle is participating in the Cancer Council’s Relay for Life, a fundraising event for cancer research held in various locations around Australia. The event most importantly is a celebration for those that have fought and won their battle against cancer, remembrance for those that lost their battle, and awareness that cancer is something that affects everyone in some way at some stage in their life.
According to the Cancer Council “1 in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85”.
We spoke to Michelle ahead of this weekend’s event, an 18 hour run which is held in a relay format. The event is run in various locations around Australia, with this weekend’s event being held in Manly, NSW.
Trizone: Michelle thank you for sparing the time to chat to us ahead of this weekend’s event. Your story is truly inspirational and we’d love to share a little of it with our readers. Can we just start with a few little facts:
Occupation: Hairdresser (Editor’s note: Michelle owns her own salon in North Manly, Australia).
Trizone: Can you tell us a little about your family?
Michelle: I’m a single mum of my beautiful pigeon pair twins Oliver and Annabelle, who are growing up way to fast! They are 11 years old.
TZ: How long have you been involved in triathlon?
MJ: Just finished my 3rd season and I can’t wait for the next season to begin very soon!
TZ: How and why did you get started in triathlon?
MJ: I used to watch the Mooloolaba ITU race and I always had a little interest. I did a little cycling and swimming but never tried running. I found a race which was the women’s triathlon in Nepean and started training for it.
TZ: A typical training week looks like?
MJ: Four Swims, four runs, three cycles and two gym sessions. (Editor‘s note: Yes she is one BUSY mum!)
TZ: What would we find you doing when not training or working in your hair salon?
MJ: Spending time with my angels and catching up with my amazing friends. A little beach time if the weather gods are on my side is a must!
TZ: Would you mind sharing a little about your fight against cancer? At what age were you first diagnosed, and specifically what were you fighting?
MJ: I was diagnosed in December of 2003 when I was 24 years old. I was diagnosed with a type of Leukemia called Myelofibrosis which targets your marrow and stops you from producing blood cells. The bones have scaring inside rather then the marrow that healthy bones contain.
TZ: What treatment did you undergo and over what time period?
MJ: I had to have a stem cell transplant in which my brother was my donor. I had chemotherapy running through my veins which wasn’t at all pleasant. The most fascinating part was that my blood type changed from A- to B+. I was in hospital for about 3 weeks, which felt more like years.
TZ: You had two young children, and really weren’t that old yourself! How did you manage as a mum when your own world had come crashing down around you?
MJ: It was tough as I didn’t want my babies to grow up with out their mother, which gives you a whole new level of fighting. I fought in a very positive way, appreciating everything which came to me, both good and bad. I think having a positive attitude helped me fight it and win.
TZ: Do you think your own battle with cancer has seen you change as a person in any way?
MJ: It has made me appreciate the simplicity of the smallest things in life. Once you have been close to death life has a new meaning. Never give up.
TZ: This weekend you are participating in the Cancer Council Relay for Life. For how many years have you been involved in this event, and of all the fundraising opportunities for cancer, what made you choose this one?
MJ: This will be my second year with the Manly Relay For Life and I have to say it found me. From almost 10 years ago when I laid in my hospital bed I wanted to give back. This event was on my door step and has an incredible concept being that cancer never sleeps, which is why it runs for 18 hours.
TZ: Did you set a target fundraising amount, and how successful have you been in achieving this?
MJ: Our team target is $5000 and we have raised a whopping $4905 so far! (Editor’s note: Michelle’s fundraising page can be found here).
TZ: With the event this weekend, can people still get involved in some way at this late a stage?
MJ: For sure! To get involved you can go online and donate, any amount is appreciated greatly! You can also attend the event and support those running, or find a Relay for Life event closer to you on the Cancer Council website.
TZ: Finally, do you have any advice for someone who has been diagnosed, or for loved ones of someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer?
MJ: If a loved one has been diagnosed, make sure that they know you are there for them. Make sure they are comfortable and make sure they talk as cancer is a life changing experience, and sometimes there are losses along the way. Talk and feel. One thing which I did when I was sick was drink loads of water to flush out all the toxins from the medication.
Thank you so much for sharing a little of your story Michelle, we appreciate your time and hope our readers get something from it. We wish you the best for this weekend and look forward to hearing how the event goes! Also good luck with the final fundraising effort.
Cancer Council Relay for Life
“All money raised through Relay For Life makes a difference in helping fund Cancer Council’s critical research, prevention, education and support services. Help us reduce the impact cancer has on our communities”.