Anna Bligh on life after cancer and why she's embracing a Cruella de Vil haircut.

Anna Bligh’s a survivor. She always has been.

Whether it’s being a woman in politics, supporting a community through catastrophic floods, or living with cancer, she brings a graceful bravery to adversity that sets her apart from most politicians.

The former Queensland premier has been really candid about surviving cancer, since she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in June last year. She appeared in an Australian Women’s Weekly photo shoot in September ’13 completely bald, having had all her hair fall out in chunks. And like any woman going through treatment for cancer, she could gauge her own fear by her reaction to losing her hair.

“Hearing that I would soon be bald was almost as hard to hear as my diagnosis. No woman gives up her hair and all that goes with it — the styling, the colouring, the ‘dos — which ease or nonchalance,” Anna told AWW.

Now she has short, black hair with a single silver streak through it. Her son calls it her “Cruella De Vil look” but far from looking like a Disney villain, the return of hair makes Anna look healthy, even vibrant. I’m back, says the hair. You can’t stop me that easily. (You can check out her new hairdo here).

Anna’s new hairdo looks a little like this.

And she is back: This is her second week in her new position as CEO of YWCA, the not-for-profit organisation that provides support and housing for vulnerable Australians. She met News Ltd journalist Andrew Carswell at an inner Sydney women’s shelter to talk about how cancer has changed her life.

Like so many cancer survivors, she’s holding onto the wisdom she’s earned through the pain: “In some ways I’m grateful to have had an opportunity at that point in my life after such a big and overwhelming responsibility in my life in politics, to be forced to re-evaluate and to really think long and hard about what mattered to me,” she told him. “I came out of that experience very determined to live a worthwhile life with whatever I am lucky enough to have left. And I hope it’s a long time.”

Her definition of a worthwhile life is to keep helping Aussies who need it. If only more politicians left politics with the same urgent desire to do that… Or even, hey! While they’re still in politics.

Anna Bligh’s spread in the Women’s Weekly.

We’re so happy to hear about Anna Bligh’s improving health.

Think back on some of Anna’s public moments of compassion, and it makes sense why her personal battle with cancer has devastated and moved so many of us. She’s a fighter, but usually she’s fighting for the people of her state, not her own life.

In 2011, Anna sobbed throughout a press conference, announcing that families had lost their homes in extreme floods. Think of her strength, delivering a “We Will Rebuild” speech to devastated families. Even think about her short stint on TV, when she lovingly tried to boost the Queensland livestock industry by entering Celebrity Masterchef.

Anna’s one of those rare politicians who truly seems to care about people’s wellbeing.

Now it’s us who care about hers.

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