I first heard about the brave and beautiful Emma through my friend Bec (Rebecca Sparrow – one of my very first interviews for this “10 Minutes With” series. If you’ve missed that one you can read it here.) Emma is Bec’s babysitter and her story had already touched my heart, yet I didn’t actually even know her. I knew it would’ve looked weird to make contact with someone I hadn’t met purely because I felt the need to reach out and do something – anything – to help. So I did nothing. As you do.
But then, serendipitously, through another friend who has a very special talent for helping others, I was given the chance to hear Emma’s story first-hand at the fundraising launch of her Blog “Dear Melanoma”.
As I listened to Emma’s story, I cried. But more importantly, I felt inspired and almost driven to go ahead and do exactly what my gut had told me to do since I’d first heard about her. I knew I had to do something more.
Now, I sure don’t have a lot of money, but what I do have is this humble website/blog and as Emma totally fit my criteria of “A Person of Great Style” it immediately became clear that this was how I could do my little bit by helping to promote her blog. At the end of the event, I put aside all thoughts of appearing stalker-like and plucked up the courage. I walked right up to her, introduced myself and asked if I could interview her for my “10 Minutes With…” series. And just like in like those wonderful new Optus ads, she said “yes”!
SO, a few weeks later, Emma came to my home and we had lunch. And wine (obligatory if you want to have lunch with me!). We’d already chatted a bit online before and discovered that we actually share many Doctors in common, and we even have the same nickname for one! 4 hours later, we parted, both vowing to catch up for a sushi date soon.
Emma has just celebrated her 23rd birthday. In fact, it was the day after I interviewed her, which makes her a Cancer, for those of you who’re into Astrology. Born in Brisbane and the youngest of three girls, she attended Sherwood Primary and St Aidan’s. She graduated from the University of Queensland with a BA in International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies before leaving to Volunteer overseas (East Timor) as a Development Worker in a rehabilitation centre for people with physical disabilities. Emma had also been accepted in to a postgraduate masters in Occupational Therapy, but after receiving the devastating news that her Melanoma had spread, she returned home to Brisbane to start treatment.
It was not long after her return home to Brisbane that she married Serge Simic. I asked why she thinks Serge loves her, and she humbly replied “Because I have red hair”! But I’ve since discovered another thing Serge loves about her . “Her bossiness” And so much so, he even wrote it in their wedding vows!
I asked her why she loves Serge. She simply smiled that beautiful smile as she said “Dah! Isn’t it obvious?” (read Serge’s version of their love story and Emma’s version, and you’ll see why). When I asked her why she thinks her family love her, she said “Because I’m kind and compassionate, and a bit quirky”.
Actually, Emma even describes her signature style as “quirky, casual and a bit Nina Proudman” (Nina is also her style icon). The colour that dominates her wardrobe is navy blue, and conveniently, that too is the colour Serge most loves to see her wear.
Emma’s favourite physical feature is her eyes, and she said her least favourite physical feature is “her bum”. I assured that not many women profess to loving their bum, and that her favourite physical and personal features – “her eyes and easy-going/relaxed personality” would definitely be the stand-outs noticed by anyone lucky enough to meet/know her. That is, on top of the many other gorgeous features I was looking at as we spoke!
(Special note to Emma from Al: I have to say how much I LOVE the styling of your Wedding party. It’s almost “edible” – so fresh, fun and happy – a true reflection of what I see as your personal style! )
Her wardrobe favourites are scarves in winter and maxi’s for summer, but in keeping with her down to earth and laid-back personality, she actually doesn’t really have any favourite stores or labels. She’s happy to shop anywhere – Target or wherever – to find whatever looks good on her. (See, I told you she has real style, didn’t I?)
Like me, her favourite restaurant is The Sushi Train at Indooroopilly Central. Unlike me, her favourite food is cherries. “I’m a fruit bat” she says. In fact, on the day of our interview, she actually brought me a tub of chocolate covered blueberries; a delicacy I’d not yet tried but certainly did enjoy. We also discovered yet another thing in common. Our favourite drink. Yep. White wine. But I digress…
With my signature turbo-style of questioning, I also discovered Emma favours white over black, is a Royalist (apart from Serge, she describes Prince Harry as the love of her life!). She prefers night to morning, and winter over summer – both of which I can understand, given her lightning fast response when asked to choose between “Beach or Bush.” “Bush!” she exclaimed. “I have Melanoma. I really don’t like the sun!”
Her very own best-kept (and newest) beauty secret is Geoffrey from Tony Mitchell at Indooroopilly. Why? “Because he’s a legend at covering my greys” (a side effect of her treatment). I can agree there, as upon closer inspection, not one single grey was in sight and her hair looked healthy and luscious and natural. Her fitness regime also involves another talented man – her lovely personal trainer, Matt. He’s been training her for over 11 years and they even went to each other’s Weddings!
When asked what she thinks of technology, Emma replied “I actually hate computers! I only use them because I have to” and I’m guessing, now that she has her Blog, that’s really become a necessity.
Emma loves people “who make her smile” and dislikes “those who don’t back off”. She also says she doesn’t like “needy people”. Her pet hate, however, has nothing to do with either. It’s actually “Serge’s ability to fart”! Ironically, it’s also that one “talent” that actually produced some of her favourite Wedding photos. Yes, you heard it here first…Emma’s favourite Wedding photo is one where they’re both laughing so much, purely because of that very same pet-hate! (Editors Note: I’m not identifying the exact photo to which Emma is referring here. Partly to protect what’s left of Serge’s reputation after that admission, but also because they’re laughing and smiling so much in so many of their gorgeous Wedding photos, I thought it would be more fun to keep us all guessing!)
Emma said her biggest weakness is that she “can be very controlling”. Upon hearing that, I couldn’t help but think that the very same trait she considers to be a weakness could indeed be what is giving her the strength to turn her current situation into something positive – raising awareness and funds for Melanoma research.
She wants to be remembered “for everything that is me” and is most afraid of “being forgotten”. Truly passionate about helping others, this is one young woman who will never be forgotten – of that I am 100% certain. She wants the next generation (be it hers or other’s children) “to know the importance of travel and seeing how so may others live”. Without that first-hand experience she fears “many of us will never be truly grateful for what we have here in our own country”.
One last little bit of (perhaps trivial) inside-info is that she “really likes trashy TV” – yet another thing I am proud to say we have in common! And finally, when asked my signature question “What do you think makes a person truly stylish?” she quickly says it’s “How they carry themselves”. And I couldn’t agree more. Emma Betts does just that, and then some…
Given all that has already endured and continues to face, she carries herself with incredibly good humour, dignity and a maturity well beyond her years. She’s real. She’s honest and doesn’t subscribe to the pressures placed on many who are in situations like hers. You know, the ones who push the power to cure yourself by only allowing yourself to think positive thoughts, daily juicing and eating your body-weight in kale. To only allow yourself to feel “false hope and interminable positivity” is an unspoken pressure which (in my humble opinion – and one Emma and I discussed at length during our afternoon together) may do a lot to help friends and loved ones feel a little better, but it does very little for the person who’s actually just trying to get through each day while facing their own mortality. Often that person spends so much energy smiling, acting positive and pretending ‘they’re fine’ that they cheat themselves out of taking time out to just have a good cry, eating the foods they love, drinking the wine they love and looking for the joy in those little moments – making every moment count.
In Emma’s case, she’s doing it in a way that I’m sure she has any real idea of the impact she’s actually making in so many other’s lives. Not only is she doing all the above, but she’s giving (more than) hope and inspiration to us all through her blog and fundraising efforts. In fact, others are noticing that very same thing….
Only a few days after Emma agreed to this interview, she was also nominated for a Pride of Australia Young Leader Medal by the Cancer Council Queensland for the work she is doing to raise awareness of skin cancer and the importance of skin checks. Here’s an excerpt from The Courier Mail article written by Laura Chalmers, and published July 14:
Queensland Cancer Council nominates Emma Betts for Pride of Australia Young Leader Medal
“When I met Emma for the first, she was doing a lot of amazing volunteer work overseas and that’s what I fell in love with,’’ Mr Simic, 24, said.
“I remember one day when we heard the news about her diagnosis, Emma asked what she would do and how she would keep busy.
“Well she has found her vocation, this is her way of contributing and helping out.’’