The first time I ever met Jane I decided we weren’t going to be friends. It was 1996 and Jane was Glenn McGrath’s new girlfriend. However I was still loyal to his old girlfriend. But one day at the airport, waiting for my partner Michael and the Australian cricket team to leave for a tour, I saw her standing by herself looking so lonely. Like me, Jane had moved from England to be with her man here and didn’t know many people.
I asked if she wanted to go for a cup of tea, and she gave me that big beautiful smile saying, “Ooh I thought you’d never ask!” From that day on we were inseparable. I loved laughing with her. We had the same sarcastic sense of humour and could tell what the other was thinking with just a look or smile. Her parents, who owned a sweet shop, would send videotapes of EastEnders plus loads of chocolate. We’d curl up on the couch watching the show, gorging happily.
The following year we were all at a hotel in England, getting ready for dinner. I got a knock on my door and it was Jane looking ashen-faced wrapped in a towel. “Trace does my boob look a funny shape to you?” she blurted. She put my hand on her breast and I felt something like a little frozen pea. We looked at each other and instinctively knew what it was. My mind kept churning over, “Oh my god.” Everything felt like slow motion. We started sobbing and I held her for what felt like ages, but was probably just a few minutes. Suddenly she said, “Right, I’ll go to the doctor and get it checked.” When she left I was in a daze.
Not long after, at the age of 31, Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was in shock, but was soon determined to live her life as normally as possible. Following treatment she thankfully went into remission.
Then one night in 2003 whilst making dinner, I got the most devastating call of my life. “Trace, it’s back,” Jane said shakily. “And it’s spread to my bones.” I just said to Michael, “I have to go” and ran out the door. I raced over to Jane’s house and we collapsed into each other’s arms. We both knew a secondary diagnosis was terrible news. I held her tight not wanting to let go, willing desperately for the cancer to go away.
Jane bravely resumed chemotherapy again. One day she breathlessly told me, “Trace, I’ve met an angel”. Alarmed, I replied, “Er, do you want to lie down luv?” She laughed and said, “No you lunatic! Her name’s Alison and she’s a breast cancer care nurse. I can call her anytime and she’s always there for me in my darkest moments. I can ask her medical questions, she tells me about helpful services, she’s there when I go for treatment, and I can pour my heart out to her. It makes me feel so much better.
“She’s basically the friend I don’t want you to be. Our friendship is so important to me, I don’t want it to change because of breast cancer.” We were both so grateful for that nurse because it meant Jane and I could still carry on being best friends in a somewhat normal way.
In 2005 we launched the McGrath Foundation to get more of these amazing nurses into the community. We had fun and I felt greatly rewarded helping Jane pour her passion into helping others, despite her own battle.
In June 2008 Jane had an operation. By then the cancer was in her brain. We spent a week laughing and joked her son James and my daughter Amelia would get married one day. In between the laughs I promised Jane that no matter what happened, I’d continue what we started. I said I’d continue with Glenn and the team so hopefully one day all families experiencing breast cancer would have access to a breast care nurse where they lived as well as increase breast awareness in young people. “Thanks Trace,” she smiled sweetly. A week later Jane passed away. She was just 42.
The sadness I felt was unbearable. Then the anger came. One day driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge tears started rolling down my face. “How could you leave me Jane!” I shouted. “You were my best friend!” I felt so lost without her. Even now eight years later I still miss talking to her every day and miss that I can’t confide in her when something exciting happens.
Watch the Miss Muddy event below!
Fortunately my work at the McGrath Foundation helped ease my pain. The charity has since placed 110 breast cancer care nurses around Australia and has supported 44,000 families affected by breast cancer and I’m extremely proud of that as I know Jane would be too. However there’s still a shortfall of 79 nurses.
That’s why events like Miss Muddy are so important. Miss Muddy is a fun, fabulous female-only obstacle and mud race which has exclusively partnered with the McGrath Foundation. At Miss Muddy events, participants walk, run, climb, crawl, slip and slide over a 5km obstacle course which guarantees loads of mud and lots of fun!
Miss Muddy is aiming to raise over $2million in 2016 with the goal of raising $380,000 in each participating city to place a breast cancer nurse in each location for three years. Remaining events will take place in Perth, Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney.
I can’t wait to take part this year and know it’s the kind of fun thing Jane would simply love. She’d be so proud of how much this country has done to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation so we can keep on supporting Australian families experiencing breast cancer. For me, the foundation keeps me close to Jane and it allows me to keep the promise I made. It keeps our friendship alive which is something I’ll treasure forever.
For more information on Miss Muddy and entry details click here, or watch the video below to see what it’s like!