By ROSIE WATERLAND
“Hey, where are we again?”
Samuel Johnson has ridden through so many towns since starting his country-wide unicycle ride that he seems a bit stumped when I ask his location. He gets his answer from one of the team.
“A few hundred kilometres outside of Perth apparently!” he says, laughing.
So why is Sam in the middle of nowhere on a unicycle?
Because he loves his sister.
If you haven’t heard of the Love Your Sister campaign, here’s a rundown:
Sam’s sister Connie is 35 and the mother of two beautiful boys. She’s also dying of breast cancer. Connie’s had cancer three times in her life: the first time at 11 and the second at 22. Both times she fought hard to beat it, and won. This time however, Connie was diagnosed too late, and now the cancer has spread to her lungs, liver, pelvis, spine and knee. She has been given 6 – 12 months to live.
Upon learning she was terminal, Sam asked her what she wanted her legacy to be. “I said if I could just save one mum from having to say goodbye to her kids then, you know, I’d die happy,” she told me from her Melbourne home.
And that was all Sam needed to get started.
“A brother is very protective of his sisters,” Sam says. “And when you don’t feel like you can do anything to help it breaks your heart. And this is something that I could do and that she wanted me to do.”
So Sam and Connie set to work creating the Love Your Sister challenge. The goal? To raise one $1 million for breast cancer research and spread breast cancer awareness. How to do that? Set the world record for the longest distance travelled on a unicycle, of course.
Sam started riding in February of this year and hopes to wrap the whole thing up in 12 months. In order to beat the world record, he needs to ride over 14,600 kilometres. He’s aiming for 17,000, “but I’ve got my heart set on the big 20,” he says.
There are events and fundraisers held by generous volunteers in most towns he rides through (go here to see how you can help out), and so far the team have managed to raise a whopping $589,868. Not bad for an idea that started out as a dare in the kitchen.
But why the unicycle? Sam explains: “Well, to raise the amount of money we wanted to raise, we needed to do something that hadn’t been done. So it was either a unicycle or a pogo stick. And I’m getting older – my knees aren’t that great – so it was decided I’d do the unicycle.”
Their message is simple: ‘Don’t fall into the booby-trap, be breast aware!’
But given it’s a such a long journey, what about, you know, down there?
“I think there’s a saddle shape permanently indented on my buttocks… And I won’t get into the ball situation… I might have done some permanent damage!”
But worth it? “Absolutely.”
It helps that Sam has a bit of a profile – most famous for his roles on The Secret Life of Us and Rush, he’s also the voice of multiple ad campaigns on TV and radio.
Connie says: “I said I would love to do something to remind women to get themselves checked because early detection is key in fighting this disease and my breast cancer wasn’t detected early enough. And by Sam visiting communities personally, and him having a bit of a profile and people knowing a little bit about who he is and recognising him – they’re going to listen more when he says ‘check your boobs.’”
But Sam isn’t the only one working hard. Despite battling cancer and having two little boys to take care of, Connie plays a huge role behind the scenes for Love Your Sister, taking charge of everything from logistics to sponsorship.
“It’s a lot of work. But it really keeps me motivated. It gives me something to get up for every morning.”
It’s also the desire to meet Sam at the finish line that really keeps Connie going.
“There are times when I get sick and… I’m in pain and I’m miserable and I just think that I don’t want this to be a drawn out process – that I’d rather go quickly and painlessly. But then there are other times when I’m feeling a lot stronger and healthier and that’s when I think, yeah, I’ll be there no matter what.”
Connie sounds so vibrant and friendly on the phone; it’s easy to forget she’s actually living out her last months. And that’s what makes what Sam and Connie are doing together so unbelievably selfless. Considering Connie has such little time left, don’t they just want to spend it together?
“That’s the hardest part,” Sam says. “But this is something she wanted me to do. I’m her little brother, and when your big sister tells you to do something, you do it. She’s managed to meet me in every capital city, and we keep in touch on the phone but obviously it’s tough.”
“It was a decision that we didn’t make lightly,” says Connie. “We knew that he could be away and that I could go downhill and actually die while he’s away… But that’s the sacrifice we were willing to make to try and make my dream come true.”
“Plus we feel close at heart, because we’re both working so hard on Love Your Sister, and we’ve got this joint project that’s our little baby. We’ve got something that we share and that’s brought us even closer, even though we’re far apart.”
And they obviously are so, so close. Even though I talk to Sam and Connie on different days and from opposite sides of the country, their love and affection for each other just radiates down the line. It’s almost hard to believe they weren’t standing next to each other as we spoke.
But they weren’t. Because this is one incredible pair of siblings, who’ve decided to spend the last of their shared time apart for an important cause. But don’t try to tell Sam he’s any kind of hero: “Compared to what she’s going through, this is nothing.
“She’s an incredible woman.”
So… How can we help?
I’m so glad you asked! Let’s get the Mamamia community behind this incredible cause. Obviously, you should head to Love Your Sister to read more about Sam and Connie’s amazing journey.
But, more importantly, head to THIS PAGE of the website to donate to the Love Your Sister campaign. Just in case you missed that, CLICK HERE TO DONATE. And one more time just to be sure: CLICK HERE TO GIVE MONEY!
Let’s help make Connie’s dream come true; let’s push Love Your Sister over the $1 million mark!
And remember: CHECK YOUR BOOBS.