About Andy || The Girl Behind the Name
Andy was being treated at the same hospital as I was, so I reached out over Facebook to ask if she wanted company as I lived close by. She responded saying she’s always open to meeting other cancer chicks, so we set up a date for me to visit her in hospital. She was being kept inpatient for a final round of chemo, so I brought a small hospital care package and a chai latte from a coffee shop nearby to give her. I remember feeling a bit nervous in the elevator going up to her floor. Partly natural nervousness because we were complete strangers, and partly nervous because I was so new to the cancer world (I hadn’t even started chemo yet) that I didn’t know what to say to someone in her circumstance. She was one of the first young girls with cancer I’d actually met in person and the only one I’d ever met who knew she wouldn’t survive it.
Any nerves melted away as soon as I met her of course. Andy had this way of making anyone & everyone she met feel comfortable and heard, and any talk of her cancer was never her chosen topic of conversation. I later learnt that this was very ‘Andy’ – always electing to focus on other things, on other people, even when she was suffering tremendously herself. When I came up to her bed, she was completing readings for a university assignment on her laptop. Andy had been offered two study fellowships that she knew she couldn’t accept, yet here she was, continuing to learn and make strides towards her goals. I remember being so amazed that someone could knowingly be in the final weeks of their life yet remain so determined to pursue their passion; and nearly a year on from that day I’ve still never met anybody who has paralleled her in this way. The word ‘inspirational’ gets thrown around a lot to cancer patients, yet there are few examples like this silent perseverance that truly embody the word. We bonded instantly.
Andy told me all about her passion for marine biology – how she wanted to do a Master’s degree in Antarctica, sail research vessels for ocean conservation and her deep love of sharks. She showed me photos on her phone of different starfish she found in rock pools (I didn’t even know there were so many kinds of starfish) and explained what made each of them special and unique. I introduced her to sweet & salty Cobbs popcorn (important) and we bonded over our pet cats and love of the beach, her favourite being Bilgola beach in the Northern Beaches which now has a bench installed there to commemorate her. We spoke for a good few hours on that hospital bed and I left feeling elated that I had made such a wonderful new friend.
In the short time that I knew her, Andy showed me there was still a life to be lived with this disease. A diagnosis of cancer doesn’t mean there aren’t still passions to be pursued, places to see and new people to meet. Andy had made a bucket list she was determined to tick off with activities like snorkelling with manta rays, walking Victoria falls in Zimbabwe (she was South African) and hot air ballooning, and tick them all off she did. I learnt that she was funny, quick witted and always showed such genuine joy & care for other people. In the short time I knew her I experienced this first-hand - she was always amongst the first people to provide advice whenever I’d post asking for help managing chemotherapy side effects. I remember texting her late at night after she was let out of hospital to attend a wedding and stayed out way later than she was supposed to. I remember sharing dark humoured memes via Instagram DMs and laughing over how prednisone made our faces look super chubby. I remember feeling sad that our brief friendship was in the context of something as terrible as cancer.
Eerily, exactly 2 months later from the first day we met, Andy passed away on the 13th of January. I’m not spiritual at all, but the night before that day I had a dream that I was trying to run to her across the top of a coastal headland where I knew she was waiting on the edge of the rocks. In the dream, different people kept getting in my way and I kept saying “I need to get to Andy” and scrambling so desperately that the urgency woke me up, almost like something ‘greater’ was trying to tell me what had happened. The news of her passing was the first thing I read when I checked my phone. I felt completely heartbroken and numb for days, feeling angry that life could be so cruel to take someone away who was so kind, someone who would have gone on to make a truly positive impact on the world with her conservation work and heart of gold.
However, Andy’s passing also spurred me on stronger. Her example showed me that no matter how scary this journey gets and how helpless it feels when the fate of your health lies out of your control, the strongest and most defiant act of all is continuing to live your life to the fullest. Life is the ONLY disease with a 100% mortality rate, and yet we waste so many, too many years pretending we're invincible to that fact. The truth is, we shouldn't need a terminal diagnosis to start embracing our full potential and living this human experience exactly how we want to - yet too many people don't start living, until they start dying. I didn't want to be a part of that population. I didn't want to waste these additional precious years I am so blessed to experience on the other side of this disease when so many, like Andy, are robbed of that option.
The early concepts of this brand came up while I was right in the middle of chemo and the idea developed more as I entered recovery and the worst of Covid-19. I made just about every excuse not to pursue it – I was too sick, too anxious, too tired, it was too expensive, too hard, the wrong timing and who starts a business in a recession!? That's the first thing you learn NOT to do in Business101. It would never work. However, after attending Andy’s funeral and reflecting back to that first day we met and reminiscing upon the way she genuinely inspired me through the way she carried herself & lived her life, I drove home feeling certain of three things:
- Driving the week after chemo for longer than 30mins is a bad idea.
- I was going to start this business.
- It was going to be for Andy.
So, I dedicate this brand to her - and all the people like her who have been forced to walk this difficult path in life. I hope it can pay forward some of that kindness, courage, & sense of resilience that Andy embodied until her very last days. I hope the scarves provide other cancer patients that small touch of joy the same way Andy did for me, and for every single person she met while she was here with us.
I sadly didn’t get to know Andy for the many years I would have wanted to, and I wish we could have gotten closer as friends. Yet in that short time, less through her words than through her actions, she made an immense impact on my life and is a permanent reminder encouraging me to pursue life with more ferocity.