A leaflet in Sandi’s letterbox prompted her to “leave a positive mark on the universe” following the death of her mother.
Her mum Elaine had a relentless experience with cancer, and in the midst of it, also lost her husband.
“She was very unique; she had four primary cancers, and no secondaries. Cancer just kept popping up in different strains and areas of her body,” said her daughter Sandi.
“The first cancer was while my dad was still alive, but the last three she went through primarily alone, with the support of my sister and I.”
Later that year, a Relay for Life flyer arrived in Sandi’s letterbox for her local Manningham event. Inspired, she decided to get a team together and participate.
The fundraising challenge brings supporters together to complete a 24 hour Relay in teams – in honour of loved ones affected by cancer.
The timely arrival felt meaningful to Sandi.
“It was the first one being run in the community and it was meant to be on what would have been her birthday.
“I honestly felt her nudging me from heaven saying, ‘Here Sandi, go do some good. I know you’re frustrated that I passed away from cancer and you feel powerless about that - well here’s something positive you can do.’”
“I really feel my mum is with me when I Relay. I feel her support, her encouragement, and particularly her pride in the fact that I’m doing something positive about this.
“I get to stop, reflect and acknowledge my mum and her bravery, sense of humour and everything about her that enabled her to fight with such dignity and grace through this terrible thing called cancer.
“I also get a sense of comradery and belonging. It feels like we are the Manningham Relay family and I love seeing these people again every year,” shared Sandi.
“It’s a way to celebrate mum’s life, and the lives of the other friends I have lost as a result of cancer.”
Sandi started seeking out new Relayers and in doing so, was struck by the prevalence and impact of cancer within the community.
“I do my best to get into any schools and invite them to participate. I once asked ‘How many of you have been touched by cancer in some way?’ and I swear about 80% of the hands in this high school room went up.”
Experiences like this have given Sandi a sense of determination when out on the track.
“Sometimes halfway through the Relay you’re thinking, ‘I don’t know how far I can keep going here’, but then you think, ‘No, the next generation might not have to hear the word ‘cancer’, wouldn’t that be awesome?’”
Sandi feels humbled by the support she receives from far and wide.
“Back in my teens and 20s, I was at university and I had a boyfriend named Michael. All these years later, he now lives overseas, but every year he will contact me and say ‘I’m remembering your mum’ – and every year he gives.
“I find it amazing where donations come from and how committed people are to supporting me and my cause and they make it their cause as well,” shared Sandi.
As a seasoned fundraiser, Sandi encourages new supporters to approach their friends and family in a way that feels natural.
“I would encourage people to start early, and practice on your family and friends.
“I often say, ‘If you’ve got some loose change in your handbag that is weighing you down, I can take that off your hands if you like!’ Just find some way that is comfortable to light-heartedly ask for a donation.”