OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExactly two years ago I got a phone call that brought my world crashing down around my ears.

It was my Mum, and I know it started with “are you alone right now, or do you have someone there who can be with you?” The rest is a blur, but certain words penetrated: Mae. Hospital.


I knew my baby sister had been ill for a while. The doctors were puzzled, but not terribly worried. Some gastro bug, maybe a lurgie picked up in her duties as a vet nurse. Possibly PCOS. Or maybe endometriosis. Nothing to be worried about. Except, of course, it turned out there was.

Exactly two years ago, at the tender age of twenty-eight, my baby sister was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

But this isn’t a post about that diagnosis or the black months that followed. I don’t want to talk about the surgery, or the interminable chemotherapy treatments.

This post is about my sister Mae, who – despite the odds – just celebrated her thirtieth birthday.


As you know, last weekend I headed over to Perth to spend some time with Mae and to help her ring in her third decade. I hadn’t seen her since she’d chaperoned me home from New York in January, and I was missing her terribly.

She’s had a hectic start to the year: She and her husband moved from Canberra to Perth in February so that Mae could start her veterinary sciences degree at Murdoch University and take the first steps towards realising a dream that she’s had since she was a child.

Mae’s one of the most generous and compassionate people I know, and her love of animals is (and has always been) an essential part of her identity. She’s a mother lion when it comes to the fair and ethical treatment of animals, and she puts her money where her mouth is: rescuing and rehabilitating animals that others would have just been put in the too-hard basket if they’d had the bad luck to land in anyone else’s lap but hers.

She’s got a couple of rescue cats that came to her as abandoned kittens. Deemed “too wild” to be adopted out; Mae took them in, taught them love rather than fear, and now they follow her around the house and watch her with adoration.


She loves them back, just as fiercely.



It’s exam period, and Mae’s like me (master stress-heads, the both of us), but even so she managed to take time out to show me around the town that is already feeling like home to her and her loving partner Nick.

The three of us had dinner out at The Aviary, browsed the Fremantle Markets, fed the remarkably polite seagulls at Scarborough Beach and watched the huge waves crash against the shore in the moonlight.

The ocean can be a bit frightening and unpredictable at times. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed I dream of tidal waves, floods, tsunamis (I was dreaming of that a lot over the last year or so). But at the same time there’s something cathartic about watching the constant ebb and flow of sand and sea. No matter what, it’s constant.

Despite the changes both Mae and I have been through over the last couple of years – futures, husbands, homes: gained and lost – I think the love between us is like that. Constant. Irrefutable.



Mae had her six monthly scan a few days ago. She’s already beating the odds, but the two year mark is a another big milestone.

Her scans came back negative.

No tumors, no adenopathy or metastatic pathology. According to the oncologist’s report her spleen is “unremarkable”.

That’s the only part of her that is.


Olympus has leant me one of their whizz-bang little OM-D E-M10 cameras to have a play with for a couple of months. It’s a tidy little package with some great accessibility features including the ability to apply cute instagram-esque filters during shooting, and the handy capacity to import the photos via the cameras own wifi onto my phone or tablet (which meant I could text them straight to my Mum).

It was the perfect camera to bring with me on my visit to Perth because it’s very portable and light. I love my DSLR, but I have to admit I’m one of the (apparently) 90.2% of people who always manage to leave it at home during important life events, because it’s too bulky to carry around unless I’m going somewhere for the express purpose of Taking Some Photographs.

The OM-D E-M10 is one of Olympus’s new CSCs (Compact System Cameras) which means it has all the capabilities of a big DSLR (which, for me, mostly means the ability to manually control depth of field – I love a good bokeh!) but wrapped up in a body that’s half the size and weight of the smallest DSLRs on the market. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a pretty little thing, either.


I’m entering the Kidspot Voices of 2014 #MyFamilyLens blog challenge to try and win one of these little beauties for keepsies (it’s got some absolutely killer features for the solo fashion blogger: the system that allows my iPhone to act as a remote control, and even shows what the camera sees onscreen? OMG, game changer.)



33 thoughts on “Milestone

  1. Dear Mae, happy belated 30th birthday and congrats for hitting the 2 year mark as a survivor. Being a survivor of cancer myself I know what that means. Realize your dreams!
    Lots of hugs from across the globe all the way from Germany.

  2. My dear former neighbours – I often think of you all and love reading the blog. Bec and Tegan put me in touch with it a year or so ago. I am so happy for you all that Mae is doing so well with such an epic struggle and you too Lili. Love to you all xxx

  3. Congratulations and a happy birthday to Mae. What a privilege to have such a loving and generous sister. May God continue to bless your family. Congrats again!

  4. Your reference to your relationship with your sister to the ocean reminded me of a poem my sister wrote for me.
    “Sisters are the shores of comfort we seek when life threatens to sweep us to sea”
    I have this on my fridge and every day it reminds me of how lucky I am to have her as my sister and best friend.
    Pleased for the good news from the scans.

  5. So happy to read this. I have often wondered how Mae was going. The love between you is almost tangible. 🙂

  6. That’s such great news for Mae.

    Also great that she’s in Perth! If she’s wanting to make some friends that are totally awesome, let her know the Facebook group Perth Curvettes Community is open to anyone and everyone in Perth. We have awesome catch ups every month or so, and it’s a totally inspiring group if women 🙂

    Glad you got to see the wild Wild West. We’ve got a ton of awesome eats and drinks here these days, and it’s just such a beautiful place.

    Next time you’re here send us an email!

  7. Lovely post brought a tear to my eyes. Sisters are forever. So happy to hear Mae’s good news. Happy birthday Mae!!!

  8. Great news about Mae! Fingers crossed for her continuing good health.

    I have one of the first E-M10s to be released, when everyone who was into old SLRs was clamouring to get one (the way it looks… who wouldn’t? And it was amazing on my recent trip to NZ when it rained at almost every important moment, because I have the waterproof lens). But I’m seriously pissed off about the lack of wifi and the new features that the newer models have. I would really love for a little retrofitting on my older model.

    The other complaint is that the standard lenses – because of the micro 4/3 format – are not wide enough. Every time I want a panorama or wide angle shot I have to take multiples and then stitch them together. Thankfully Microsoft have an excellent free program called ICE that will stitch them up really well into a coherent picture, even if I’ve taken 8 single shots for a 4×2 grid. It’s experimental, but it’s the best one I’ve tried, and it’s FREE!

  9. Love the photo of the two of you. Happy birthday to your little sister Mae, and so pleased to hear if her good health xx

  10. Happy Birthday to Mae, and Congratulations as well! I wish nothing but the best for her and for you!!

  11. I read this holding my breath, and the burst into happy tears! YAY!! I am so, so happy for Mae, & for this amazing bright spot of joy for the entire family. Great big hugs, & oceans of love to all of you!!

  12. Hooray and happy birthday Mae! Lil-I have four sisters and like you a clean scan would be the only unremarkable thing about them.

    Congrats ladies-on another year!


  13. Its been a tough slog for both of you – may the next year bring, health, happiness and tranquility 🙂

  14. I’m an only child and you’re making me misty. I’m so glad for Mae and for you, Lily. Really and truly glad, bless you both, now and always.

  15. Congratulations and happy birthday to Mae! This is a lovely post – thank you for sharing it!

  16. I was just wondering “I’ll see if Lily has any news about Mae” and yes you did. Beautiful post. I live in Scarborough so totally get the beauty of it.
    I am still new to Perth (4 years) so if Mae would like to meet up for a coffee/chat with a eastern-states’er then feel free to pass my email on.

  17. As someone who is currently battling cancer reading a post like this really helps to see Mae doing so well. I know this response is a bit late and I remember reading this in the summer when I started to be unwell but now it has a greater meaning for me. My operation is booked for 11 December – coming up all too quickly!

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