Every day, Merimbula’s Julie Baker puts a little more ground between herself and cancer.
The bright 25-year-old is currently racking up 25 kilometres a day in preparation for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a fundraiser to help build the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) in Sydney.
And her mission is personal.
In 2011, Julie was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma in her brain, lung and liver while working as an airline hostess for Regional Express in Townsville in 2011.
She’d had the job with the airline for just five weeks and joked it was the only airline she was tall enough for.
“It was such an unusual type of cancer and because I was so well looking it stumped a lot of doctors,” Julie said.
“The doctor called and asked me to come in and told me what was going on and asked if I could go straight to hospital.
“I thought ‘no, I have stuff to do!’”
Her treatment at Townsville and RPA included surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Not long afterwards, both of her paternal grandparents died within a month of each other, both from cancer related illness.
Now she says her health is stable and before she returns to RPA next year she’s working hard to give something back.
“I seriously started training a week ago,” she laughs.
“I must say when I signed up I thought there’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to do this, I had a defeatist attitude but I changed it.”
Seventeen family members and friends have joined her including former Young Endeavour captain Andrew ‘Gunna’ Rourke who Julie sailed with in 2009.
Andrew has personally raised $15,001 for the cause and has nothing but praise for Julie.
“Onboard Young Endeavour she was awesome; she did everything with high energy, was selfless, inspired others and had a huge zest for life.”
Julie’s team also includes her father Ian, two sisters (one from Jakarta) and Eden’s Benay Sykes, her colleague at Merimbula Airport who has raised more than $5000.
Julie says the support has been “overwhelming”.
Taking part in the ride was first suggested to Julie by her oncologist.
“He said, ‘you should join us, you need $2500 to get over the starting line’.
“That instantly turned us off, we thought ‘As if we’re going to be able to raise that much.’”
However a donation of $2500 from the South East Timber Association ensured Julie got over the line and that Benay had her bike.
“(The Lifehouse) is very, very needed,” Julie said.
“When you’re not feeling well and having to go here and there for appointments it’s not very nice.
“It is not far enough to take a taxi but too far to walk.”
The Lifehouse concept was formed by RPA cancer specialist Dr Chris O’Brien, who died of a brain tumour in 2009.
His vision included clinical care, research, education and therapies to create better outcomes for patients, their families and carers while providing medical staff with opportunities for innovation and holistic care.
“All the oncologists, radiologists and neurosurgeons as well as care and support will be in the one building so the most you’ll have to do is get in a lift and go up two levels,” Julie said.
Two thousand entrants have signed up for the 200 kilometre ride which will dominate roads between the Sydney Olympic Stadium to Camden and back on October 13 and 14.
Three weeks out Julie’s team, The Wolf Pack, are the third highest fundraisers for the event, having raised $60,000 and counting.
They are second only to the Lifehouse Team ($203,342) and Chris O’Brien Family and Friends ($63,348).
Nipping at their heels is Sydney law firm Watson Mangioni CYCOS with just $400 needed to overtake The Wolf Pack family.
To donate, visit The Wolf Pack’s page at http://sy12.conquercancer.org.au/site/TR/Events/Sydney2012/1710921192?team_id=6105&pg=team&fr_id=1070