real life

"My friend Emma Betts died last night. And the world has dimmed."

You know it’s coming. You’ve talked about it countless times over cups of tea and chocolate covered blueberries. You’ve talked about the funeral. You’ve talked about who will speak and sing and her obsession with Horses by Daryl Braithwaite. You laugh at her black humour about what she REALLY wants to say to those people telling her to be “more positive” and “drink away her cancer with green smoothies”. But you never actually expect it to happen. You couldn’t picture it. You can’t imagine the day a person you care about will suddenly just vanish.

But she has.

My friend Emma Betts – that 25-year-old feisty, funny, beautiful red head – died last night. And the world has dimmed.

I can remember the first time Emma and I met.

It was 2013 and I was a sleep deprived, slightly nuts, mother of a newborn, a one-year-old and a four-year-old and I needed a babysitter.

Emma and Bec. Image supplied.

When I found Emma’s profile on a babysitting website, it was like I’d discovered Mary Poppins and Angelina Jolie all rolled into one. She was an aid worker who had returned home to Brisbane and was planning to do further study. She was an experienced nanny, had nieces and nephews and was a model student from the prestigious girls’ school down the road.

I couldn’t email her fast enough.

We arranged to meet but on the morning of our catch-up she suddenly cancelled. I’ll admit it – I inwardly groaned. Don’t tell me it’s another unreliable Gen Y. I’ll be honest, that’s what I thought.

How wrong I was.


The next day when Emma and I finally met, after I’d shown her the house and introduced her to the kids and told her she needed to guard the cheese sticks away from the toddler, she told me she had stage four melanoma.

I didn’t even know what that meant.

It’s terminal, she said.

Standing in my lounge room, with Dora playing in the background, she cried. And so did I.

Mia Freedman recently interviewed Emma Betts in an incredibly moving episode of No Filter. Post continues after audio.

We have been friends ever since. And what a gift she has been to my life.

Emma Betts was always more than a melanoma diagnosis. She was fiercely intelligent, didn’t suffer fools, loved to laugh. We bonded over our mutual love of maxi dresses and pav.

In the three years she schooled all of us in living not just the length but also the breadth of your life.

At 22 years old she was diagnosed with cancer, and do you know what she did? She got on with things.

She married her great love Serge.

Despite never having written before she started what would go on to be a phenomenally popular blog called, Dear Melanoma.

She travelled the world.

She bought a home.

She renovated it and created the kitchen of her dreams.

She became a mum to her fur-baby Ralph.

Emma, Serge, and their dog. Image supplied.

She started her own business (Love, Emma) designing care packages for other people who are going through life’s toughest moments.

She fundraised. Lord did that girl fundraise. She fundraised more than $100, 000 for melanoma research through her “Through the Looking Glass” charity events, walks and public speaking engagements in schools.

And she campaigned constantly to create awareness about the sun safety and the importance of skin checks.

Emma taught us to stop bloody whinging about getting older when it is a PRIVILEGE. Emma’s great dream was to have the chance to have children, explore a career and most importantly grow old with her husband Serge by her side.

But Emma didn’t exist to be a ‘lesson’ to the rest of us. She was extraordinary just as she was. Fiercely loyal. Clever. She laughed like someone who’d committed a crime and gotten away it. Emma was a cherished daughter of Tamra and Leon, a beloved sister to Ashlee and Sarah, a doting aunty, a much-loved granddaughter and sister-in-law. And wife to the besotted Serge.

She was Emma. Our Emma.

The extraordinary, the unique, the fierce Emma Betts.

You will not be forgotten, Em. We all promise you that.

You can donate to help support Emma's funeral plans and her family here

You can visit Dear Melanoma here

You can find Emma's business Love, Emma here