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Pink Lady Socks save lives

PDHPE Teacher, Ms Chrissie Grϋn was in Year 6 when her mum died of breast cancer. Last Saturday, she organised for every girl representing Wenona at sport to wear Pink Lady socks in support of the PLAY4BCNA campaign.

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Ever since her mum, Anne died from breast cancer in 2005, PDHPE Teacher, Chrissie Grϋn has dreaded Mother’s Day. On Sunday, she endured her 15th without her mum and – like so many other girls and women who were also motherless on Mother’s Day – it was a day to pause, to grieve and to remember. Chrissie honoured Anne’s memory by going to one of her favourite places: the beach.

“From when I was two until the age of five, I lived with my family on Hayman Island. The beach was our happy place; we all loved being in the water together. My parents first met while scuba diving in Thailand, so they both loved the ocean. I always think of mum when I’m out in the surf.”

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Anne Grϋn was an exceptionally fit and active mother of two, when she experienced the first sign of the disease that would eventually take her life just 13 days after her 46th birthday. Chrissie was only 9 months old when Anne was first diagnosed, and her sister Bella was two. As the disease progressed, the family relocated back to Sydney so Anne could receive the care and treatment she needed. In that time, Anne underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Despite the heavy toll this took on her, she remained positive. Her attitude was always that she was not dying from cancer, she was living with it.

Above all, Anne was always there to support her daughters. Bella was, and still is, a gifted artist and Chrissie was a talented tennis player who has gone on to be a national javelin thrower, earning an elite athlete scholarship to Sydney University. Chrissie has vivid memories of her mum, sitting in her preferred position at the back of the court, cheering her on.

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“For mum, tennis wasn’t about winning. The most important thing for her was that I played with integrity. She’d have dragged me off the court if I’d behaved badly or thrown my racket!”

Anne died when Chrissie was in Year 6 at St Ives Primary School and Bella was in Year 9 at Ravenswood. The network of practical support and care from the school community during that time sustained the family but adjusting to life without their mum as a touchstone was hard. Gone was the person with whom Chrissie could check out the small worries about her tennis, talk over playground problems, discuss school anxieties and successes, ponder over the future.

Since then, there have been so many ‘milestone’ moments in both her daughters’ lives that Anne hasn’t been there for. And although their maternal grandparents have been incredibly supportive, as well the other ‘mother’ figures who’ve stepped up to the plate to support them through their high school and university years, and beyond, forging a path in life without a maternal compass has been tough.

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“Even now, when I see a mum supporting her daughter from the sidelines, I feel a stab of loss. I know what it's possible to have: I know what I've lost. Since my mum died, there have been too many moments when I’ve longed for her guidance and support. On her last birthday, I asked her what she’d choose if she could have anything she wanted. She said time. It’s made me appreciate just how precious time is.”

Losing your mum is never easy, no matter how old you are. But Chrissie would do anything to prevent another girl having to experience the loss of her mother at such an early age.

“When I was young, I was always going to be the kid that cured cancer. But it quickly became apparent to me that Science wasn’t my forte, so I became a PDHPE teacher instead. For me, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness in young people about the importance of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s my way of making a difference.”

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Another way that Chrissie is making a difference is through her support of Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA), Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organisation. BCNA works tirelessly to ensure that all Australians who have been affected by breast cancer receive the very best care, treatment and support available.

“The statistics are frightening. Every day, 57 Australians are diagnosed with breast cancer and that figure is way too high. The work that BCNA does in raising awareness about prevention and early detection, advocating for better healthcare, and supporting those who are at risk, those who are diagnosed and their families, is incredible.”

DrS 

To support BCNA, Chrissie organised for every student representing Wenona at sport last Saturday to wear Pink Lady socks as part of the PLAY4BCNA campaign. Last week, there were flashes of hot pink across the School campus, with even Dr Scott wearing a pair of Pink Lady socks at Assembly!

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On Saturday, whether it was Hockey, Netball, Basketball or Football, every Wenona student proudly wore their Pink Lady socks to raise funds and awareness for BCNA. There were flashes of pink on the sidelines too, with parents donning a touch of pink, and even our Water Polo players wore pink caps. So far, Wenona has raised more than $11,000 for the PLAY4BCNA campaign, with our Soccer teams wearing their Pink Lady socks this weekend (last week some games were rained out and some teams had a bye).

The CEO of BCNA, Ms Kirsten Pilatti has been overwhelmed by the support from the Wenona community and recorded this video message of gratitude, which was played to rapturous reception by our students at our Principal’s Assembly on Tuesday.

Chrissie is also incredibly humbled by the support of the Wenona community.

“Thank you to everyone who bought a pair of socks for their daughter or who kindly donated to the PLAY4BCNA campaign. And thank you to the girls themselves, who knew that they were playing for something far bigger on Saturday and did so with such grace and dignity. It’s obviously a cause that is very close to my heart, but it’s also something that has touched the lives of so many other people in the Wenona community. Even if the Pink Lady socks have started a conversation or prompted someone to go and get checked, it’s been worth it.”

As part of her commitment to raising awareness about early intervention and prevention for breast cancer, Chrissie will be coordinating a session with our Year 12 students at Renaissance Studies later this year, which will include a demonstration on how to properly check your breasts.

If you want to make a donation to the PLAY4BCNA campaign, you can do so here. And there are also still socks available to purchase. But on behalf of everyone at Wenona, in particular Chrissie, thank you!

• This article is dedicated to the memory of Anne Louise Grϋn (1959-2005).

Chrissie and Mum