Introducing 'Wellbeing Wisdom' - personal stories of wellbeing and resilience from our community
Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to learn from and connect with others. Everyone has a story to share that can inspire others to take a step towards personal growth. This is our first story in a series of 'wellbeing widsom' - personal stories of wellbeing, resilience and agility from members of The Oranges Toolkit community.
This is a transcript of a story shared between Julia Reid and The Oranges Toolkit team, recorded at Camp Quality on Wurundjeri country, in August 2022.
Please feel free to share this story with others and if you have a story of your own to share, we'd love to hear from you. Simply contact us for more details.
Julia Reid's story of incredible resilience in the face of adversity
Julia Reid is an accomplished business consultant, and a mother of four children who recently experienced the heart-breaking diagnosis of cancer in her six month old baby River. Julia shares the challenges she was faced with and the learnings that came with them.
"In our journey to having a child, I had multiple miscarriages. And if anyone has had any kind of problems with fertility, that's really hard. And so, with River, we one hundred per cent didn't think that she would last. But she did. She's so strong. She is the strongest of all of my children. But, six months in, she got a temperature, and we didn't know why. At first, we were not overly stressed about the temperature, she was our fourth child. But then she just went downhill, and she really went downhill. We went to the hospital, and we were rapidly moved to a long-stay ward. When we walked into that ward and saw the kids facing cancer, our hearts sank. We just thought, how would we even cope if that was the diagnosis?
At that point everything that they're testing for is bad. It then was four in the morning, and I was googling everything she was getting tested for, even though doctors had said not to. They told us that they found AMAs. River had stage four cancer, she had hundreds of tumours, hundreds, it was 30% of her body. The survival rate is really low and the average lifespan is six weeks. When I read that I might not have Christmas with my six-month-old baby, I just bawled my eyes out.
There were surgeries that they said we don't know if she's going to survive. They said to us, ‘this is the most intensive chemotherapy protocol that we've ever given’. The nurses had to have special training just to look after our child. There weren’t even enough sockets in the wall next to her bed where the IV pole is, to keep these machines powered. I knew it was going to be hard, so I started questioning; How do I get a psychologist? What do I have to do?
I was doing a gratitude journal already. Gratitude, positivity, and other practices. I had learnt that when I'm down, I just need to make a list because it's hard to make decisions all day, which is all we did. Constant decisions about her treatment. I had to have things already planned. I saw a psychologist every week when I was at the hospital. I had that, and a list of things to help me every day. I had to make sure physically I was okay and that I had something on that I would enjoy every single day. Even if it was just a little thing. Getting a coffee, or someone getting a coffee for you, was exciting.
Since then, I keep checking three things every single day: my physical symptoms, my overall behaviours, and my thoughts. I'd look at my physical being and check: What's my current state? Am I tired? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I sick? What do I need to feel good? That helps me identify when I'm ruminating or worrying. It also helps me to plan my week in advance to make sure that there's time for connection. Seeing friends, connecting with my family, connecting with my husband. That connection is big in our household.
The connection with my own wellbeing and with those around me was important to be able to go through all of that. And having been able to navigate this situation, allowed me to get to know myself better. It made me more confident in my career and motivated me to remain focused on personal growth. Focused on getting better as a person, but also really on just being me.
There was a change last year in me where I no longer felt like I was like this little kid sitting at the adult’s table. I know myself enough now and know where I belong. And I deserve to be, and it's not about wanting to sit at the table, it's about how I can really add value, where I can really do good. It's the same with my professional career. And with this change of mindset, the opportunities that came along are phenomenal. I find myself in conversations with managing directors or CEOs (Chief Executive Officers). I am able to sort of facilitate conversations and solve a business problem for them because I'm just connecting with the person as a person and having that empathy. Just meeting that person where they are is really powerful.
River is now thriving. She's really fun. And we're genuinely really happy even though we are still scared. Every fever is terrifying because there's a very real threat to her life so we're focus on being grateful for what we have in the present moment."
Reflecting on this story
Julia's moving story conveys the opportunity that we can grow from adversity. Many of us have heard of post traumatic stress. But how many of us have heard of post traumatic growth? Post Traumatic Growth is the idea that we can learn and grow through difficulty. We think Julia's story perfectly sums up what resilience is. It's our ability to not just bounce back, but bounce forward through the challenges we're facing. And this story is full of personal growth, self awareness, a commitment to expressing gratitude, valuing connection with others and prioritising health. You might like to reflect on how you can learn from challenges in your life, and what small changes you can make in order to bounce forward with resilience.
Thank you for reading this edition of The Oranges Toolkit Wellbeing Tales. We are grateful to Julia Reid for sharing her time and story of resilience with us.
If you'd like to share your own wellbeing tale, please contact us.
Seek help when it's needed
This story may have prompted some emotions in you, and that's OK. If you need it, remember that there is help all around. We recommend contacting your workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a qualified health practitioner, or:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636