Connie’s big heart
Published: 09 May 2017
A fond farewell to the sister we’ve all loved
Sam and Connie are still cracking big smiles
Images © 2017 The Project
She may be Sam Johnson’s sister, but it’s fair to say many thousands of Australians have embraced Connie Johnson as one of the family.
The charity which the siblings set up, Love Your Sister, has raised over four million dollars towards fighting cancer. But now, it seems that after nearly 30 years of battling various cancers herself, Connie’s fight is coming to an end.
When she was just 11 years old, Connie was diagnosed with bone cancer. At 22, doctors found a tumour in her womb. In 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and was given just 6 months to live. And that’s when we at The Project first met her.
“My cancer has stayed stable for a lot longer than they expected when they tried the fourth line of treatment which was an oral chemotherapy,” Connie explains.
“My hair grew back and it wasn’t as brutal as some of the chemos. So I was able to live a fairly decent life through that time.”
But now, aged 40, the cancer has spread to her liver, and Connie’s health has gone downhill. And with side effects overwhelming her, both physically and mentally, Connie was not sure whether she could continue with treatment.
However doctors took the choice out of her hands, telling her the chemo was taking too much of a toll on her organs, and she’d have to stop treatment. Even though she’s proved the doctors wrong before, this time the prognosis of months left to live looks increasingly likely.
And while she’s come to terms with her mortality, she’s afraid for the family she’ll be leaving behind.
“I have this thought that comes in to my head all the time, where one day I’ll be holding the children’s hands and I’ll know they’re there and then I won’t, I’ll be gone. And my pain will be over and theirs will just be beginning.”
But it will be the end of an extraordinary journey, which culminated in one sense with Sam taking home the Gold Logie last month, dedicating the award to the “incredibly proud” Connie.
“It’s such a weird and wonderful thing,” she says. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d see, especially after he retired!”
It’s a measure of how much goodwill has been generated by Sam’s extraordinary efforts with Love Your Sister – including his legendary Australia-wide unicycle journey.
And tomorrow, Connie says farewell to all those who have helped with her final fundraising effort – the Big Heart Project, which was intended to assemble the world’s longest line of coins in Canberra.
But the donations to get 5 cent coins together have left the record in the dust.
“The donations went a lot higher than we ever expected so we’ve had to change it from the longest line of coins in the world to the biggest heart and it’s now like a big heart shaped wishing well,” Connie smiles.
To donate to the Big Heart Project, visit http://www.loveyoursister.org.