Trivial Pleasures and Triumphs – Or how to buy the BEST mascara CHEAPER

Ah, the small victories in life are often the sweetest, aren’t they? You know, like beating your husband on Words With Friends, getting your children to eat broccoli without sneakily dumping it in the bathroom rubbish bin and finding that perfect parking spot at Chadstone in the middle of the Christmas shopping rush…

I had one last week but could only share it with you today when the package finally arrived. I needed physical proof it was actually going to happen. And YES, here it is!!

My delivery today from Strawberry Net

My delivery today from Strawberry Net

Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I’d ordered some cosmetics on-line and they arrived safely that’s the cause for celebration – although that’s always a good thing. It’s the fact that I was actually ABLE to order KEVYN AUCOIN MASCARA on-line for delivery to Australia, for the FIRST time – THAT’S the reason I’m high-fiving myself.

I’m not a big fan of spending huge amounts of cash on make-up. I love wearing the stuff, but I’m slightly resentful of the fact that it puts women behind the eight ball financially compared with blokes in a big way. Again, not blaming anyone, and it’s our own choice to wear the stuff, but some of the prices charged are ridiculous.

(But I digress – I’m not here to discuss feminist issues right now, so I’ll get back to the point.)

The point is the BEST MASCARA EVER is definitely Kevyn Aucoin’s version. If you want proof, check out the blog I wrote on Boxing Day, with added tips about how to get the LONGEST eyelashes.  ( It’s at )

Up till now, the only place to buy Kevyn Aucoin mascara in Australia has been from Mecca Cosmetics. That’s a lovely store with some great products, but quite frankly, if you’ve travelled abroad, you’ll know that we pay through the nose for their wares compared with our overseas sisters. If I buy  Kevyn Aucoin mascara overseas, it’s about $25 US. Here, it costs $45.

I’ve tried many, many times in the past FIVE YEARS to purchase it on-line. I’d spend AGES filling in data and waiting to join a particular site, then source the product, order it, and sometimes even pay for it, before a BIG RED SIGN appeared on the screen, saying this particular item was BANNED from shipments to Australia. In other words, Mecca had a moratorium on the brand. A very peeving set of circumstances and a situation that repeated itself on many occasions.

Strawberry Net

Strawberry Net

BUT, last week, I hopped on to to order my favourite FOUNDATION which is the Guerlain ‘Lingerie de Peau’ – colour Number 3 – and I thought, ‘I’ll just give that mascara one more go.’ So I typed in the order details and it came up as being for sale at $27. I pushed the right buttons and PRESTO, it was processed. I held my breath, waiting to see if I’d receive an email saying there’d been a mistake. Nope. Nothing.


And then today, my package arrived – proving you CAN now buy Kevyn Aucoin mascara on-line. YIPPEE!!!

Kevyn Aucoin Mascara

Kevyn Aucoin Mascara

Yes, it’s a small victory, but bloody satisfying. Now, if only I can get the kids to eat their veggies…



Hunting down the ‘BEST Chardonnay in the WORLD’!!

The BEST chardonnay in the world!

The BEST chardonnay in the world!

It took five months and a journey half way across the world to find it, but my mission is complete – I have tracked down the BEST CHARDONNAY in the world.

My extraordinarily patient husband has long endured my obsession with chardonnay. Now, I’m not talking about ‘any old wine’ here – but a beautiful, finely tuned, buttery-oaked, liquid gold piece of perfection. An excellent wine, to me, is nectar from the gods. And I abhor Sauvignon Blanc – EWWW, let me spit to the ground right now with contempt.

So at many a function or restaurant when I can’t find a decent wine, Fletch will give me ‘that look’. You know, the ‘Don’t have a hissy fit, shut up right now and don’t complain,’ look. I give him a LOOK right back. The one that says ‘Sure, I’ll suck it up but I’m NOT happy.’ I won’t say it ruins the evening, but it becomes a less fabulous experience…

I truly wish I liked beer. Life would be so much easier.

But in balance, when I DO find a decent chardonnay, the joy is extreme. I thank the people who picked the grapes, the talented wine-makers who spent years perfecting their craft and the restaurateur who had the good sense to stock the stuff.

Such was the experience last year when Fletch and I were spoilt rotten, and taken to the uber cool GAUCHO CITY restaurant in London, by Channel Five. (Thank you, Greg Barnett!)

Goucho City restaurant in London

Gaucho City restaurant in London

As you can probably guess from the chairs swathed in cowhide, it’s not a venue for vegans. Specialising in Argentinean steaks, guests are invited to choose their own particular cut of meat from a well-presented tray that’s brought to your table.  And while I also enjoy a rich glass of red, (and did with my steak), I opted for a chardonnay to have with our entree.

One sip and I was hooked. ‘WOW. WOW and WOW!’ I declared to the table, ‘This is the BEST chardonnay in the world!’ Okay, that may have been ‘slightly’ over-stating it, but such is my excitement when I make a NEW chardonnay discovery. So good it was, that I knew I’d want to track it down once I returned to Melbourne, so I asked our waitress to write down the wine’s name and vintage on a business card.

Tapiz winery, Argentina

Tapiz winery, Argentina


TAPIZ is the name of the winery and it’s located in Mendoza, Argentina. ‘Tapiz’ means ‘tapestry’ in English – appropriate given the fine tapestry of flavours it affords the palate.



When we returned home in September, I began the task of tracking Tapiz down in Australia. I tried the obvious first – Dan Murphy, Vintage Cellars and the local bottle shops, with no luck. Then I went on to a few wine websites – again nothing. How could this be? How could a wine so extraordinary not be available to the masses? The only solution seemed to be to contact the winery direct in Argentina.

I found the TAPIZ website, but that was of no use whatsoever because it’s all in Spanish. If only I was fluent… Nevertheless, I dashed off an email in the hope that someone in their office might be able to translate and help.

Tapiz Chadonnay

Tapiz Chardonnay

Sure enough, a week later I received a reply explaining that the winery had just made arrangements with an Australian wine importer to bring Tapiz to our shores. In just a couple of months, I could contact RED BARREL Importers of Fine Wines to purchase my much sought after chardonnay.

When I learnt Red Barrel had another business – Cosi Duci Gelati in Ivanhoe – I knew we’d get along fine. If I were ever to specialise in food and beverages, I couldn’t think of a better combo than wine and gelati! Owners Victor and Silvia Scalia and I were definitely going to be kindred spirits.

Red Barrel also scored a big, fat gold star for such a prompt follow-up after my initial query. Just two weeks after receiving their first shipment of Tapiz, Sylvia arrived on my doorstep from completely the other side of town, to hand deliver two bottles of their finest for me to sample. She also invited us to a ‘tasting’ at their premises so we could learn more about the full range of Tapiz wines.

It was then, when I held that long-sought-after bottle of wine in my hands that I began to have doubts. Was this wine really going to be as good as I had remembered it all those months ago in London? Perhaps my perception was coloured by the seductive ambience of the lush Gaucho restaurant and the fine food? Maybe this had been one long wild goose chase?

Was it going to be as good as I remembered?

Was it going to be as good as I remembered?

Needing a second opinion and validation, I saved that bottle until I caught up with my fellow-chardy expert and sister-in-law, Penny. Down at their home in Anglesea on a sunny, summer’s afternoon, we finally cracked it open.

Kapow! Yes, there it was! That fine, golden liquid delivered on it’s promise. It was indeed worthy of a blog to share its greatness with the world.


Silvia and Victor Scalia, Red Barrel Importers of Fine Wines

Silvia and Victor Scalia, Red Barrel Importers of Fine Wines


The second validation came after meeting with Victor and Silvia Scalia at their Red Barrel premises. They share a passion for quality wine, which is why they began their importing business in the first place. Victor visits Argentina at least once a year and was disappointed he couldn’t find the best of their wines in Australia. The best solution – import it yourself!


The Red Barrel range of imported wine

The Red Barrel range of imported wine

Red Barrel is now the exclusive importers of both Tapiz and Granata wines for Australia. They’ve already made inroads in Melbourne’s restaurants – notably Piqueos in Rathdowne Street, Carlton, Othello at Southbank and  a new restaurant called Buenos Aires Steakhouse which is opening soon at 189 Lygon St, Carlton – plus they sell direct to the public. Prices range, depending on amounts and variety, between about $21 wholesale and $27.

A fine feast - cheers Tapiz!

A fine feast – cheers Tapiz!

Fletch had to film Neighbours on the day of the wine tasting at Red Barrel, so I took my Dad along instead. I think I inherited my love of fine wine from him, after all! Sylvia laid on a fine feast and I was again delighted to sample my now-favourite chardonnay. Although Victor and I disagreed on one thing. He’s convinced the Malbec is the best of the Tapiz range. It’s a mighty fine and mellow red, but I’d still opt for the chardonnay.

You can make up your own mind by sampling this wonderful wine for yourself. Just contact Red Barrel Importers of Fine Wine by email at 

OR the company’s new website will be operational shortly at

OR phone Business Manager Sylvia Scalia on 0407 881 188.

















From Page 3 Girl to Sensible Saffy

Our daughter, Veronica, turned 18 just over a week ago. It’s quite a milestone that deserves a Blog.

She made quite a splash when she arrived in the world, our baby daughter. Born on her father’s birthday, it was the best present I’ve ever given Fletch. By just nine months old, she was a Page Three girl in the Herald Sun.

Veronica - a natural water baby

Veronica – a natural water baby                                                Photo: Craig Borrow

I was as proud a mum as any could be. We took her to swimming lessons, Gymbaroo and Mini Maestros to ensure she got the best start in life. Who knew what hidden talents might surface?

My chubba-bubba - pretty in pink

My chubba-bubba – pretty in pink

I also spent a fortune on baby clothes in pink, florals and more pink, because the cuter she looked seemed to help compensate for the sleep deprivation we were suffering.

While adorable by day, she was a monster at night who refused to sleep through. Several times we made the call to book in to ‘sleep school’ only to have her perversely start sleeping right through that very night… as if she’d heard our phone conversation earlier in the day. So we’d cancel our booking and OF COURSE, she then instantly returned to her screaming ways. Arghhh…


Veronica and Tom

Veronica and Tom



But we struggled on through and then went for baby Number Two. When Tom arrived, Veronica was delighted to have a sibling to play with. There was a bit of rivalry in the early stages, but generally speaking, Tom and Ronnie have always been great mates. Thank God, Tom was a good sleeper!






Rock chick child

Rock chick child

As it turned out, Veronica had probably been screaming at night because she hated the clothes I was forcing her to wear. As soon as she was able to speak, she made it quite clear she DETESTED pink. And anything ‘girly’.  And Barbie Dolls. EWWWWWww…  Bratz dolls however, were an obsession.

I wondered whether her leaning towards the ‘rock chick’ look was a warning sign for the teen years. Perhaps we were in for more sleepless nights as she transformed from monster-baby to night-life-loving-teen-from-hell??
As a child, I found her resilience and sensible attitude startling. There was a bullying incident in Grade Five. I was only made aware of this through another child and a teacher, as I hadn’t noticed her being upset at home. Frantic with worry, I asked her if this was happening and whether she was okay. She shrugged and said, ‘I’m okay, Mum. Maybe they’re just not my kind of people?’ Wow. I wish I could be like that when people are nasty. A good lesson to take on board. Thank you, daughter.

Year Seven art award

Year Seven art award

Still, I was prepared for the worst as she moved into senior school. God knows, I hadn’t been an ideal teenager, so I probably deserved to be put through some angst after making my Mother suffer. But, strangely enough, the early teens were very peaceful. In Year Seven, Ronnie shone in the art department, taking out the art prize for her year group with a stunning butterfly painting. She also won ‘Most-improved’ in netball.


Veronica never took to bush-walking...

Veronica never took to bush-walking…

In fact, her most rebellious streak came out when we forced her to join us on bush walking treks while holidaying in the Grampians. Bush-walking wasn’t her thing… Check out the face! You can imagine the complaints. Long and loud.

Perhaps she was missing her friends in the city? Because while she wasn’t a wild child, she loved a party.



Ronnie's 14th Dracula's birthday party

Ronnie’s 14th Dracula’s birthday party

Veronica’s birthdays have always been cause for much excitement. A different theme and in particular, a special cake, every year. And while she’s not a fan of the Twilight book and film series, (much more a Harry Potter devotee) she opted for a girls’ night out at Dracula’s Theatre Restaurant for her 14th birthday.

By the time she turned 16, there STILL hadn’t been any traditionally bad teen behaviour. No missing in party-action, no lying about being somewhere else, no skipping school and no vomiting from over-indulgence with alcohol. I was starting to get concerned. This wasn’t normal, surely?

When we renovated her bedroom, I suggested we now remove the 70-odd Bratz dolls on her mantelpiece and put them upstairs in the rumpus room. Or in storage. Sixteen is definitely too old for dolls, right? ‘NO WAY!’ she said firmly. ‘They are staying where they are.’
‘But honey, what if you get a boyfriend and bring him home and he sees all these dolls? Surely he’s going to think that’s a little odd?’ I really was trying to look after her own interests here.
‘No, Mum,’ she said. ‘I don’t play with them any more, but they’re my collection and I want them to stay. And if a guy came over and said something critical, I’d dump him.’

‘Okay,’ I said. How could you argue with that logic? While mystified by her passion for dolls, I couldn’t help but admire her determination to stand by what she likes and not succumb to my concerns about potential peer group judgment. I love the fact that she doesn’t care what others think.

And she was going to parties. We’d had plenty of chats about boys and alcohol and she told me other young people were drinking. ‘But don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I hate the smell of alcohol and cigarettes. I’m never drinking or smoking.’

I’m sure I detected a faint suggestion of smug superiority in that comment and the accompanying look she gave me. Regular readers will know I used to smoke and so I credit myself with being such a bad example, I’ve shown my daughter how NOT to behave. Yes, it really started to seem like I had my own version of Saffy, from the TV series Ab Fab in my own home. She was enjoying her seat on the moral high-ground. Which was fine with me.

Butter Beer smile

Butter Beer smile

Some of my friends were doubtful. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ they’d scoff. ‘They all drink at that age. You’re kidding yourself.’ As far as I knew, the closest she’d come to grog was knocking back an alcohol-free Butter Beer from Harry Potter World when we visited Universal Studios last year.

So the next time I picked Ronnie up from a party, we pulled up at a traffic light and I said, ‘Honey, I know this seems silly, but can you blow your breath in my face just so I can be sure you haven’t been drinking?’ After a HUGE roll of the eyes, she complied. Nothing. Clean as a whistle.

THEN she said, ‘But there is one thing I did that was a little bit bad.’

I nearly slammed on the brakes. Shock, horror – perfect little Saffy had sinned?? I tried to hide my excitement. What gorgeously wicked deed was she about to confess? Perhaps she’d pashed and groped some young bloke in the bushes? Maybe she’d even smoked a joint?

‘What did you do, what did you do?’ I asked, desperate to know and trying to look stern.

‘Well…’ she said, glancing at me sheepishly. ‘I drank four cans of soft drink.’

Really? Is that ALL? Seriously??  I have to admit I was a tad disappointed. But I maintained the facade and whinged something pathetic about dentist bills. But Bless Her Cotton Socks. I am indeed blessed. I’ll take a soft drink addict versus an ice addict any day.

Year 11 formal

Year 11 formal


Last year there was a Year 11 Formal and for the first time, I saw how she had truly grown from an awkward teen into a beautiful young woman. She chose the dress. Not too short and no revealing cleavage, mind you! She’s much classier than her mother.






And then, two weeks ago, she was just as gorgeous at her 18th birthday party. And still not a drop of alcohol has passed her lips. As for the party, now that’s another Blog altogether. (I’ve got some great tips about teen parties!!) But for now, I just want to say ‘Happy Birthday, Veronica, and thank you for being the most wonderful daughter a mother could wish for. I hope one day I’ll grow up to be as sensible as you.’

Ronnie at her 18th birthday party

Ronnie at her 18th birthday party


Cool jeans for REAL WOMEN – how New London Jeans found a gap in the market

I love discovering a new fashion find and sharing. With winter edging around the corner, I was looking at my wardrobe and thinking it needed a refresh – particularly in the jeans department – when lo and behold, I stumbled across this FAB brand that fitted the bill (and bum) in more ways than one.

The iconic look for a pair of New London Jeans involves studs and stitching. Tres cool and probably a bit pricey, right? Well, here’s the bonus. They DON’T carry a ridiculous price tag like some of their competitors. And the reason they sell so well is that they’re designed for real women BY real women.

Statement stitching is a hallmark of London Jeans

Statement stitching is a hallmark of New London Jeans

Sales and Design Director at Chris Alexander Agency, Claire Alexander, has worked in fashion ever since she left school and has helped run the Chris Alexander Agency with her husband for the past 15 years. About three years ago, they decided there was a gap in the market that needed filling – that women (about 30-years +) wanted jeans which were comfortable, affordable and looked cool.

After a bit of research, they came across New London Jeans, which was originally launched by a French designer. Along with some Chinese partners, their agency now supplies the Australasia region and business is booming.

Sales and Design Director Claire Alexander

Sales and Design Director Claire Alexander

‘We now work with Anthony, the designer, to broaden the range to suit our market here,’ said Claire. ‘Each range is different and we’ve been developing it largely based on customer and store feedback. We now have a strong loyalty base which is great, because women really love it’

One of Claire’s largest clients is Eco-D, which has twelve stores around Australia. ‘The managers give me fantastic feedback on fit. That has really helped with the success of the brand.’


Claire speaks from personal experience when she describes what women want. ‘We’re giving something to women who are not necessarily brand devotees. I mean, I don’t want to wear what my nieces in their 20s are wearing and I don’t want to spend $300 on a designer-label pair of jeans. We want a good product with a bit of a fashion statement that’s comfortable too.’

With a median price of around $150, Claire says a lot of their customers will buy two pairs – one as a fashion statement and another for day-to-day wear. ‘And the quality of fabrics we use stacks up well against the more expensive labels,’ she added.

Winter colour range in London Jeans new four-way stretch fabric

Winter colour range in New London Jeans new four-way stretch fabric

Here’s another bonus with New London Jeans. They’ve just been released in a new fabric that is exclusive to the brand. It’s a four-way stretch denim, making it super comfy.

‘It’s like wearing trakky pants but they look like jeans,’ said Claire. ‘And they don’t go baggy around the bum plus they wash well. It’s one that all the retailers say is performing really well. It comes in five colours this season – the turmeric colour is our key fashion statement for winter.’



I reckon the real key to the success of the brand is because they make each style in three different ‘types’. Claire says they classify them as a taper fit, a pipe fit, and a pole fit. ‘ A taper is like a skinny jean – it’s a mid-rise jean and it tapers off down the leg, but it’s not as tight fitting as a skinny jean,’ she said.

Vicki models the Hyde velvet style

Vicki models the Hyde velvet style

‘A pipe fit is similar to a trouser leg – more like a cigarette leg – straight all the way down. And the pole fit is a bigger fitting jean with a higher rise and a fuller leg and better suited to bigger girls. So for instance, with clients like Eco-D, they’ll mostly want the taper fit. Then other stores who cater to more mature customers but also want a cool look, go for the other two styles.’

Yep, it’s all about the FIT. Claire says they work and work and WORK on the re-fitting and shape of these denims until they get it exactly right.

This season there are several ‘trends’. Colour is huge – as seen in the new four-way stretch design. Then there’s animal print and velvet, which Vicki, who works with Claire, kindly agreed to model for me.

Grey jean with stitching is a signature look

Grey jean with stitching is a signature look


The STATEMENT piece this season, which features on the New London Jeans stylebook cover, harks back to the brand’s core look – with studding and stitching.

Claire says they never rest on their laurels. ‘We don’t want to keep on doing the same old thing. We want each range to be fresh and to offer our customer different styles each season. We’re constantly working on ways to improve.’



And while New London Jeans has a website, you can’t buy these babies on-line. Claire says it’s best with jeans to try them on to get the ‘right’ fit. ‘All our styles are on-line so people an browse and see what they like and then find a store that sells it. That way they get the right fit. We also try and help our stores become ‘jean specialists’, with direct advice and a style guide, which works really well.’

London Jeans coated black denim skirt

New London Jeans coated black denim skirt

AND THERE’S MORE!! Great to see that as well as jeans, Claire has included a denim skirt in this season’s range. Not just any old skirt, either. This one’s a bit classier than the rest, sporting a ‘coating’ which gives the black denim a very smart finish. In fact, it’s even proven a hit with – believe it or not – GOLFERS.

‘Next summer we’re bringing in bleached denim skirts and coloured denim skirts and some are even in sateen, because we’ve found this style is really popular with golfers. It’s hard to find a non-daggy golf skirt, so this has been a big hit.’

Whooda thunk?

And here’s proof of the brand’s success. Last summer, New London Jeans had twenty-five pieces in the range. Next summer, that number will be double to meet demand, with more than FIFTY styles. Go, Claire!

If you’d like to see more of the New London Jeans range, and to find your nearest stockist, visit the website at



The Good News About Cancer – Interview with Ian McKeown

It’s not often we get GOOD NEWS about cancer. It’s also rare to hear about health issues from men, because generally speaking, the male species tend to be less vocal about personal matters. So I was delighted when I asked a friend of ours, helicopter pilot Ian McKeown, if he’d mind sharing his story and (with a bit of arm-twisting) he agreed.

Ian’s been through the wringer and back after being diagnosed with lymphoma. Only a matter of weeks ago, he was officially declared to be in remission. Woo Hoo – pop the champers, I say!! And while Ian can’t drink grog just yet, he’s celebrating in his own way.

Peter McCallum Institute

Peter MacCallum Institute

Most importantly, he wants to thank the wonderful staff at Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Institute, his wife, Inge, family and friends for their support. Plus he’s got some great advice, which we can all learn from.

This interview is in Q & A form because Ian explains his story far better than I could.

Jen: When did you first realise something was wrong health-wise?
Ian: Probably about 18 months before I was diagnosed. I went to a couple of GPs who put me on antibiotics and the general consensus was that it was a mosquito-born virus, a bit similar to Denghi fever. They told me not to worry – that it would go away. I also saw a hematologist, who was also convinced it was a mosquito-born virus and told me not to worry.

Jen: Did you have a gut feeling they were wrong?
Ian: No, I believed them but I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t getting better. But I soldiered on and continued to work two jobs.

Jen: What symptoms did you have?
Ian: Just a general feeling of un-wellness, which is hard to explain because I was still eating and exercising, but getting out of bed was becoming harder. I was feeling tired and I had a rash on my belly and chest that would come and go. My glands were also up a bit but not always, up, which is probably why the haematologist didn’t think it was cancer, because generally they come up, and stay up. But I did have a feeling something wasn’t right. I just couldn’t pinpoint it.

Ian McKeown

Ian McKeown

One day I’d just had enough. So I went to a GP that I’d never been to before. Just completely out of the blue. I went in and said, ‘Look, there’s a medical imaging place across the road. I want you to write me out a referral so I can go over there and get every scan possible so I can satisfy myself that is just a virus. To make sure it isn’t anything else.’ I did this off my own bat. A simple ultra-sound showed on screen, clear as day, that it was lymphoma. That was evident from the large tumours in my abdomen. While the technician tried to hide it, I could see it. And that was how we got the ball rolling.


Jen: Have you lost your faith in the medical profession because of their inability to find out what was wrong?
Ian: No. But I have urged all my family and friends to get second opinions and to keep pressing on if you think something is wrong health-wise. I’m very surprised I wasn’t sent in for an ultra-sound at the beginning. It’s a simple step and it may have made my treatment easier because it wouldn’t have been so advanced.

Jen: Did you ever ask what might have happened if you hadn’t taken the initiative?
Ian: No, but I know. I wouldn’t have survived. I would have been too far gone. As it was, I only just got it in time.

Jen: How did you react when you found out it was lymphoma?
Ian: I was so relieved. A lot of people think it must have been the worst day of my life. No. The worst days were not knowing what it was. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. And I knew I wasn’t being a hypochondriac.

Jen: What was the next step?
Ian: My sole focus was telling my friends and family, but not alarming them. That was made easier because most people know that if you get cancer, lymphoma is probably one of the better ones to get because it is treatable.

Jen: But there are many types of lymphoma, aren’t there?
Ian: There are, and I still don’t know all of them. And I’ll say right here and now, ignorance is the best friend you can have if you’re going through cancer. Don’t ever Google anything, don’t try and find out. DON’T DO IT!  If my doctor wanted to explain anything, I’d say, ‘Don’t tell me. Just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it.’ I didn’t want to even THINK that I might not get through it. So if friends or family tried to tell me about my illness, I’d stop them in their tracks. And I still don’t know or want to know much about it.

Jen: Is that because you believe in a positive attitude being necessary to battle cancer?
Ian: It’s the MOST important thing. It’s a tough thing to get through, but you need to try to stay positive throughout. The doctors gave me HUGE piles of paperwork to read. Seriously, it must have been about five kilos. And I told them I wasn’t going to read it. I have never read it and I will never read it and that’s just how it is.

Jen: What helped get you through?
Ian: I wanted to read books about adventure and inspiration. Not depressing stuff. I wanted uplifting. I drew strength from reading that book of Lance Armstrong’s, even though it’s a tragedy he’s fallen from grace, because I knew I wasn’t as sick as Lance. So every day, going through the chemo, I’d think, ‘Well, I’m still not as sick as Lance.’ I’ve also never watched so much football in my entire life. I got right into the 2012 season.

Jen: How did Inge help?
Ian: She was the most wonderful rock. Her work colleagues were very supportive. She gave up a lot of work to spend time with me when I was really sick. I was lucky that for the first four rounds of chemo, I wasn’t nearly as sick as I was expecting to get. However, the final round, when I had a stem-cell transplant, it did catch up with me and made me very, very sick for months. In the end, being nauseous became the new normal. Inge was there for me through all that.

Ian McKeown

Ian McKeown

Jen: How long did the chemo treatments take?
Ian: I was told my lymphoma was the ‘more difficult’ one, but I didn’t want to know any more than that. I just wanted to get on with the treatments. I’m sure I had quite possibly the best treatment available in Australia at the Peter MacCallum Institute. I took the attitude that my new full-time job was getting better. So I started my first chemo on the eighth of March last year. It was quite daunting, being on a drip with bags of chemicals and tablets to take in over that time. They’d wake you up at four in the morning to take in a different type of chemical.



There’s sleep deprivation and being with other people in a shared ward who are sicker than you. Even going to the toilet was really difficult. I had to go in for four days every three weeks. Some of the drugs I had must have been incredibly toxic because there were spill sheets on the floor and curtains had to be drawn. They had a special trainer wearing goggles plus a stand-by nurse in goggles and gloves and gumboots. They’d put this chemical in and I could feel in tracking up my arm and going into my body. A bit like battery-acid infusion!

Jen: Did you ever have days when you thought it was all too much?
Ian: No, I don’t think so. I just wanted to get on with it and get it over with so I could get better. I always tried to plan things to look forward to in the future. Like getting to northern Australia and getting out on the Great Barrier Reef, going snorkelling and diving and spear-fishing. I always said, six weeks after my treatment’s finished, I’m going snorkelling! It didn’t happen, but that didn’t matter. It’s what got me through.

Jen: Is there anyone in particular you’d like to thank for helping you get through it all?
Ian: Having visitors – friends and family come in was wonderful. I also liked to try and cheer up other patients who were down in the dumps. I made that a personal challenge. I’m so, SO grateful to all the wonderful people at Peter Mac who helped me. And I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for blood transfusions. I needed LOTS of blood transfusions. so I’m grateful to the donors. I was honoured to be asked recently by Peter Mac, to speak with another patient who was diagnosed with the same rare type of lymphoma I have. He wanted to speak to someone who’d been through it. I was just so honoured. I just want to show him that I’m living proof you CAN beat this. To tell him to stay positive and that I’ll be there for him anytime if he needs me. I’d like to volunteer to help if I can to pay back my debt to the community. I feel like there’s a big debt there.

Jen: How long after treatments could you return to work?
Ian: I went back in early December, part-time. I wasn’t one hundred per cent but I was fit enough to fly and put myself through a Class One Commercial Pilot’s medical and I passed that no worries. Work’s been great because I was getting bored, so it’s helped with the recovery.

Jen: How did it feel to be ‘officially’ told that you’re in remission?
Ian: Before my professor even uttered the words, I could tell by the way he was beaming and his body language. It was so wonderful to hear those word, ‘Well, Ian, you are now officially in remission.’ I had no doubt, but I was still ‘Yee Ha!’ I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and family.

Congratulations to Ian on his great news. He’s an inspiration to us all and isn’t it wonderful to hear some good news about cancer? I reckon he’s earned that trip to the Barrier Reef now, don’t you?



Celebrating the ALL CLEAR

It’s been a great week. We held a party for our daughter’s 18th birthday party and no one puked over the cake, got arrested or punched. We were also lucky enough to be invited by Swisse Vitamins to the Welcome Ellen DeGeneres to Melbourne’ party, which was fantastic.

Pop the champagne!

Pop the champagne!


But my biggest reason to pop the champagne was MY BREASTS being given the all clear after some serious testing procedures.




I wrote about the process back on March 6th. How I decided to have a full-on health check, which led to a mammogram, which led to an appointment with a breast specialist. At the time, after the mammogram looked fairly clear, I was a tad peeved with my local GP for then referring me on to a breast specialist. If the ultra-sound and mammogram looked clear, why was that necessary? Surely that was just a waste of time and money? Did I really need MORE people groping my breasts? My cynical journalist brain started imagining it was all part a medical fraternity plan to refer patients on for extra tests, purely to line their pockets.

Breast Changes pamphlet issued by the Health Department

Breast Changes pamphlet issued by the Health Department

Not so. The breast specialist I saw, a delightful and thoroughly professional man, Dr Peter Gregory, explained how in fact, mammograms fail to detect cancer in ONE IN FOUR patients. ONE IN FOUR. I was staggered hearing that. I’d imagined mammograms to be foolproof. Then it made sense why my local doctor had sought a second opinion.


Dr Gregory put my mammogram results on a light board and explained what was going on and why he’d like to take a sample for further testing. That’s when the sense of fear returned.

It’s never fun, lying on a bed, knowing a doctor is about to plunge a needle in to your breast to remove some tissue for testing, but I did very much appreciate the serene pictures of Italian coastline plastered to Dr Gregory’s ceiling to distract me and give cause for planning an imaginary holiday in Portofino. More doctors should copy that idea.

But then you have to wait for the results from the lab. Unfortunately I seem to always have tests done just BEFORE the weekend, which only serves to extend the agonising waiting process. I’d advise anyone undergoing medical tests to TRY to have them done on Monday or Tuesday – if possible.

So the GOOD NEWS is that last week, I was given the all clear. However, Dr Gregory gave me a pamphlet to explain further how breast detection works and what to look out for with any changes. He also said I’ll need a mammogram again in six months and six months after that, just to be sure.

Which is TOTALLY fine. I know this is not the most fascinating blog, but I’m putting it out there to encourage others to get to the doctor and have health checks. We all know early detection is the best weapon in the fight against cancer.

Me and Sam Johnson

Me and Sam Johnson


I’m so glad I went to Federation Square back in February to see actor Sam Johnson start his epic uni-cycle ride around Australia. Sam took on the challenge after his sister, Connie, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Together, they’ve launched the ‘Love Your Sister’ campaign, to raise money for research and to raise awareness about the importance of getting your breasts checked. Sam and Connie – your message is getting through. THANK YOU.