No pain, no gain
Carrie Bickmore’s cancer foundation has helped TheProject star cope with the death of her husband. By SHANNON MOLLOY
GRIEF is a strange thing to live with. It can strike with ferocity in the most unlikely of circumstances and then be totally absent in the obvious ones, as Carrie Bickmore has discovered over the past six years.
Her husband Greg Lange died in 2010, just two days after Christmas, after a long battle with brain cancer.
The sadness – that awful sense of loss – never entirely goes away, Bickmore says.
“I don’t know if I want it to, though,” she says. “It’s a strange thing, but I guess it’s wanting to know that person is still with you in some way.”
When The Project’s co-host won her 2015 Gold Logie, donning a blue beanie and giving an impassioned speech about the disease that took her husband, she couldn’t have imagined the reaction that followed.
Her heartfelt plea for awareness and support resonated across the country. People wanted to chip in, to help her make a difference, so Carrie’s Beanies For Brain Cancer was born.
“The foundation has given me a positive place to channel a lot of the feelings I have,” Bickmore says.
“It’s also a real legacy for Greg and a legacy for [son] Ollie as well.
“And it’s gone so well. I’m humbled by everyone’s support and generosity. I can’t believe we’ve raised $1.2 million in just over a year.”
Through a concert fundraiser and the sale of designer beanies, which sold out this winter, her organisation has been able to splash much-needed cash on vital research projects.
“The money is going to make a difference and hopefully one day other families don’t have to go through what I went through,” Bickmore says.
A few months ago, she walked into the Royal Melbourne Hospital for the first time in years. The times she’d spent there with Greg were often plagued by a sense of hopelessness.
“It’s where Greg had his surgery, a place where I’d never felt much hope,” she says. “But to go back this year to present a cheque for $250,000 to the Neuroscience Foundation, to this exciting research project, I felt hope.
“I feel really positive about the brain cancer space and everything that’s going on. I feel fortunate to be part of it … it wasn’t until after my Logies speech that I realised the power I had to raise money.
“Had it not been for that reaction to my speech, I don’t think I would’ve done it.”
It’s been a big year for Bickmore – and she is completely exhausted.
Her duties on Ten’s hit newsentertainment show keeps her busy, and it’s a job she’s still as energised by as she was at the start seven years ago.
“I think it’s because there have been so many changes, some different hosts … I’ve never had that lull where it feels like Groundhog Day,” she says. “I love it, and [co-hosts] Waleed [Aly], Pete [Helliar] and I are so close. We get along like a house on fire.”
Bickmore recently came across a tape of the show’s first episode and couldn’t believe how much she and the show had changed.
“No one can ever see that footage,” she laughs. “It needs to be a hidden in a dungeon somewhere. It’s amazing how much things have evolved.”
Oliver, 9, and daughter Evie, 18 months, are a delightful handful. Add the almost full-time commitment to the foundation and various media and endorsement commitments, and it’s easy to see why she is keen for a break
“Every year I’m a bit tired at the end and ready to switch off, but this one more than ever,” she says. “It’s been full on – all great stuff that I’m really thankful for. But I’m spent.”