ASK Elizabeth Mahon what life means to her, and she will tell you that it is pretty wonderful. Elizabeth is my daughter, and for the last six months, she has been battling cancer.
In August, she won the first round of that battle when the oncologist told her that she is in remission. However, Elizabeth is mindful of the fact that this cancer can return and that she is not cured yet.
However, through her faith and determination, and the expertise of the oncologist, she has defeated the tumours, and is keeping a positive attitude about her future.
In January, Elizabeth, aged 19, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Then began six months of intensive chemotherapy treatment, as well as several operations, many scans, and countless blood tests and needles.
During this time, Elizabeth was unable to continue with her modelling career and her university studies. This was a big blow to her, especially her inability to continue working as a model.
Elizabeth bravely opted to have her long hair cut short, as a prelude to losing it. Always thinking of others, she then decided to join the Shave for a Cure, organised by the Leukaemia Foundation, so as to raise awareness of this charity.
When Elizabeth was in Year 12 at All Hallows’ School, Brisbane, she was discovered by a talent scout from Vivien’s Model Management, and asked to work with their agency. Working under the name of Beth, Elizabeth has achieved success, working in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne
A diagnosis of cancer changed Elizabeth’s life. Instead of fashion parades and photo shoots, and lectures and assignments for university, she went on a round of hospital and laboratory visits, sometimes three days a week.
In fact, we celebrated one week, because Elizabeth had an entire week free of medical procedures or visits to doctors and hospitals.
Elizabeth joined the organisation CanTeen, a valuable support group. This organisation supports, develops and empowers young people with cancer, who are aged from 14-24 years.
CanTeen provides an Australia-wide peer support network of young people living with cancer. Emphasis is on the sharing of experiences, and having fun, while promoting understanding, well-being and leadership.
Elizabeth has attended several camps, which included such activities as ropes courses, horse riding, canoeing, and bush dancing. Sharing sessions are also a valuable part of these camps, when the young people are encouraged to reflect on the impact of cancer in their lives, and how they can deal with it.
There were some activities she was unable to attend, because she was too ill from the chemotherapy. Each time there is an activity or camp, the CanTeen members are required to have their doctor’s permission to attend. There is also an oncology nurse present to dispense the medication needed by each member, and to ensure that each one is managing during the time of the camp.
Elizabeth joined the Public Relations and Fundraising Committee of CanTeen, which raises money by selling bandannas. Because some forms of cancer treatment result in hair loss, the young people often wear bandannas.
In June, Elizabeth was one of the Queensland representatives at CanTeen’s National Ball and annual general meeting in Sydney.
This month Elizabeth is going to meet with the Year 12 students at All Hallows’ and speak of her experiences as a cancer survivor. The students have ordered a carton of 320 bandannas to sell on October 31, National Bandanna Day.
This year, CanTeen is one of the sponsors of the National Retail Association’s Fashion Festival in Queensland. Formerly the Retail Association of Queensland – the RAQ, as it was known – conducts a fashion extravaganza, in October each year.
Fashion designers, both established and aspiring, compete for awards in different categories. Heats are held over a two week period at several venues.
The culmination of this Fashion Festival is the parade, which takes place in City Hall, and is televised. Designers who win top awards several years in a row, are inducted into the Fashion Hall of Fame.
This year, the Fashion Festival’s launch took place on October 3 at the Conrad Treasury Hotel. The theme for the launch was ‘Denim and Bandannas’. Guests were asked to buy a bandanna to wear on the night. There was a fashion parade featuring models wearing bandannas and outfits made from denim. A highlight of the night was the appearance of the Brisbane Lions, some of whom took part in the parade.
Because of Elizabeth’s modelling experience, she was asked by CanTeen to take part in the parade.
It was a very special occasion for her because one of Australia’s top fashion designers, Daniel Lightfoot, kindly offered to design an outfit made from denim and bandannas, especially for Elizabeth to wear.
Daniel has won many awards in the fashion industry, and is in the Fashion Hall of Fame. He designed an outfit that was young and fun. The outfit will be auctioned for cancer research.
Our family attended this fashion parade. When the Brisbane Lions walked down the red carpet with the models, there were cheers and clapping – an acknowledgment of their great success in winning the AFL Grand Final.
However, the finale of the parade belonged to Elizabeth. Accompanied by Brownlow Medal winner Simon Black, who also won the Norm Smith Medal, she made a triumphant return to the world of modelling.
When Elizabeth walked down the red carpet, it was more than a celebration of success, it was a celebration of life.
She is a living example of a young woman who has faced cancer and beaten it.
To our family, Elizabeth is a very special young woman, and an inspiration to all. We wish her well for the future.