A death that taught us many things

The public face of illness has become a powerful tool in many ways and the death of Connie Johnson is no exception.

What once would have been shuffled off into palliative silence, an elephants graveyard sparing us from our own troubling mortality, now is an ever-more public confrontation.

At the same time knowing that this same disease and mortality is all around us makes it all the more powerful, drawing all those into an unenviable community of those touched by cancer’s premature cold hand.

In Connie Johnson’s case it is both familiar and unnervingly new; as though the sad news had come from your own family.

The Canberra mother-of-two died last week, a day after being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

She launched the charity organisation Love Your Sister in 2012 in an effort to raise funds for cancer research. 

The campaign has raised millions of dollars for cancer research, including more than $2 million in May .

So if Daylesford claims Connie and tireless brother and campaigner Samuel as the place they grew up, Canberra as her home and Melbourne will hold the “village service” there are a thousand other “villages” (among them Ballarat) where the message touched people and drew them together in a common theme.  

On one hand the Love your sister campaign is about fund raising and that elusive hope of a solution offered by support for ever improving treatments and medical  investigation. But on the other hand it is also about awareness, not just of the disease; it’s perils, early intervention and costs, but about the human capacity to persevere and endure.  This message of undiminished love despite a dwindling physical existence was all the more powerful because so many people had felt it in their own lives.

Many have struggled with the sense of hopelessness as these terrible diseases ravage yet another loved one’s body.  But Samuel, determined not to be prey to that despair gave up his career to focus on Love Your Sister, the charitable organisation founded by Connie to raise money and awareness for breast cancer.

He rode around Australia on a Uni cycle to spread the word and ultimately in the words of his sister “did something.” It’s a message all communities want to share in. 

To donate to Love Your Sister, visit www.loveyoursister.org.