Friday, 12 December 2014

Love Your Sister - The Book

A Look At the Past Months In Our Lives

On Tuesday 28th October Sam and I released our Book, “Love Your Sister”. Our late father published many fiction and non-fiction books in his lifetime, and Mum also published a few works of poetry in her short time on Earth. I think it is fair to say that books have been important to us since we were little’uns, and that when Sam finished his unicycle ride and we were offered publishing deals from 7 different publishing houses, this for us, was more than just the opportunity for us to tell our story.

With DEADLINE fast approaching and the ideas still streaming in thick and fast it was time for me to head to Sydney for a writing trip. I stayed next door to Hachette, our publisher, and started treating this whole writing thing like a real job. I got up in the mornings and went into the office, commandeered an unused desk and started typing.

I felt so good to be “working” again. I have really missed going to work every day, having that feeling that I must get up because I have important things to do. Words must be written, work must be done, and I am the one to do that. I am the right person for this job and only I can do it. Going into the Hachette office, being surrounded by busy people and meeting in the tea room for a cuppa every couple of hours was so normalising. I found myself loving the work, writing efficiently, and quietly wishing that I could go back to work. Oh how our self is defined by our work.

Before I knew it, the week was over, and the final draft was finished. All of a sudden the DEADLINE was here, I had submitted all I could, and there was no more opportunities to make any changes. This project that Sam and I had been working on was finished, and all of a sudden I felt empty, ‘what now?’.

No time to wallow, time to start promoting the book. We were very fortunate to have lots of media interest around the release of our book, we were to do over 30 media calls in three days. Print, radio and television, up early for makeup for photo shoots and one stop to another meetings, a never ending blur of people you recognise, quick chats and selfies in corridors before moving onto the next one. Sam and I have done a lot of media in our time with Love Your Sister and are every grateful for the support, but in the hazy tiredness of early mornings and car trips from one to the other, it all starts to blur a bit.

Then Tuesday night rolls around and we rock up to The Project on Network Ten. We sit in the green room eating camembert cheese and lavash crackers, while Sam paces the room thinking and rethinking the questions. I sit shaking on the couch in the greenroom, which by the way, does not have a stick of green furniture in it. It doesn’t matter how many times Sam does this, he still gets nervous, and this is my first time live on the desk so I am nervous too. Though tonight I will have two ‘brothers in arms’ so to speak on the desk with me. Rove and Carrie have both lost loved ones to cancer so I feel safe with them, despite never having met Rove before. Countdowns start and people start using clipboards to shuffle us down dark corridors towards rooms with bright lights and big cameras.

Our five minute slot seems over before it has even begun, but as they go to an ad break I share a moment of intimacy with Rove. He asks how I ‘really’ am, and I know that he knows first-hand there is how you are and how you are. Countdowns begin, and my time for a chat with Carrie and Rove is over, the show must go on, I have shared an intimate moment, a moment of understanding, where we all agree that Cancer is ‘A Bastard’ before the cued laughter starts and more jokes start rolling.

Dennis Walter on 3AW in Melbourne, (listen to it here), he is an icon on talkback radio, he has heard it all over the years and nothing shakes him. He is impenetrable. I am really nervous to be doing this interview, I don’t know what to expect. At the end of our interview, people started calling in and we got to talk to people live on air. We had no idea this was going to happen, so it really took us by surprise. The opportunity to ‘talk back’ to some of the listeners was a humbling experience. We talked to lots of people who had been affected by cancer first hand. They were crying and by the end of it, Sam was in tears, I was in tears and even Dennis Walter had a few tears in his eyes. He seemed quite shaken up. He collected himself quickly, took a quick pic with us, then moved on to his next show. 

Peter Wilmoth from The Weekly Review did an interview with me. Peter is a very experienced writer and journalist and I feel out of my depth. Today it’s just me, Sam wasn’t invited to this one, and what an experience that was. Peter had actually read the book and talked about moments in the book with tears welling up in his eyes. This was my first encounter with someone I didn’t know who had read the book. I was curious, did it make him cry? Did it make him laugh? How did he feel? So I asked him, and he answered honestly, yes, he did cry. Our book made Peter cry and it made me reflect on how the book might affect other readers, and made me wonder if it would actually make women check their breasts, and make men ask their girlfriends and wives if they are checking their boobs, or even getting ‘hands-on’ and offering to ‘save a life and grope their wife’. I really hope that at least some of the people who read it take home the importance of being proactive about your health, and not letting things slide if you notice any changes in your body. It is so much easier to deal with a disease in the early stages, than when it is too late to effectively treat.

As a co-owner of a secondhand bookstore, I love books. I love the smell of a bookshop, the feel of flicking through pages and just holding a book in my hands. I have not yet ventured into the digital world of books yet, personally. But as an author, I am keen to sell our book in any form. I couldn’t believe it when I saw our book was number 2 on the iBooks charts, and was also listed as the number one ‘buzz book’. Bookworld, the online website where you can buy real books online listed our book as ‘the book of the month’. Newslink listed it as a ‘Pick of the month’ and when I bought a copy of our book from Newslink, it came with a free bookmark, and 4 books were pictured as “Pick of the Month” books, Love Your Sister was one of them! We were up there with Marian Keyes and David and Baldacci! Fancy that!

One of the promotional events we did was to talk to a room full of book sales people. These people sell books to bookstores, and convince them of which books to put on prominent displays, how many to order and how to market books. This was a big opportunity for us to make an impression and get our books on the shelves. I was to wait at the front of the room while Sam unicycled in and came up to the stage where we would read excerpts from the book and talk about Love Your Sister. We had stayed up until the wee hours on the phone the night before preparing this talk. When our planes touched down from Melbourne and Canberra we managed a quick walkthrough before we were due in the room.

I was waiting side of stage and the room was in darkness. I heard and saw an incident at the side of the room, one of the signs was knocked over and people rushed to the side of the room in a dramatic, urgent way, but I didn’t know why. The unicycle was tossed aside and Sam ran up to the stage. We hugged and got started. Sam was white, I was standing to his right, so I could only see the right side of his face, but he was pale and sweating. His breathing was short and sharp and although he was reading well I could tell that something was wrong. By the time it was my turn to read I was quite worried, I read slowly and deliberately, constantly glancing at him to see if he was alright, then he turned to face me head on and there was blood running down his left temple. It seemed he had hurt himself on the way to the stage and he was in shock, that explained the shallow breathing, the sweating, the pale face. Oh shit, what should I do? I kept reading, looking up at the audience periodically. They were engaged, hanging on my every word. Just keep going. Pretend nothing is wrong, then it’s Sam’s turn again. I look at him, his breathing is normalising, he has a bit of colour back in his face and the sweating is subsiding, he is recovering from whatever it was, but he still has blood dripping down his temple. He keeps reading and you could hear a pin drop in that room, everyone is breathing quietly, listening attentively waiting for the next instalment. I follow Sam’s lead, if he is OK, we can keep going with this talk. At some point someone offers a tissue and Sam wipes the blood off his face and keeps reading after laughing and saying how embarrassed he is.

We finish the talk and everyone stands and claps. The clapping just keep going, the audience loved what they heard and I am thrilled. This is the best public speaking engagement we have ever done, it felt electric and I know we penetrated. Sam looks at me with a desperate look in his eye. ‘Get me out of here, I just want out, is there much blood, I am so mortified.’, ‘What happened, I didn’t see, how did you hurt yourself?’, ‘I crashed into a sign on the side of the room and fell off the uni, this is absurd, I ride around the whole country then fall off in here, all I had to do was ride 10 metres.’ I can see how mortified he is, and people coming and fussing over his sore and the blood on his temple on serves to amplify his embarrassment. It must have worked on some level, because our book is in all the bookstores and department stores and has been displayed prominently on the shelves.

Thanks to everyone who has bought the book. Thanks to you, we made it into the top ten non-fiction books in Australia for three weeks running. Sam and I are both thrilled and humbled at the same time. Thanks also for all of your lovely comments on Social Media. It is really touching to read your comments, and although we don’t have a chance to respond to you individually, we try to read them all, and it means a lot to us that the book has meant enough to you for you to make the effort of posting about it. We love hearing that you weren’t able to put it down, or that it made you happy, or sad, that you are recommending and buying it for people you love and that particular sections resonated with you.

We had a book signing at Dymocks in the Canberra Centre on Friday 21st November. Heaps of people came along and bought books and waited in line for ages to get them signed. It was such a privilege to meet so many readers who all have varying reasons for buying and reading the book. Some people are interested because they are close with their siblings, others because they have been through breast cancer or are going through it now, more still because they followed Sam’s unicycle ride and then more who have a friend or family member going through cancer. Quite a few people bought it as a Christmas present for a loved one who follows Love Your Sister. We met and chatted with a lot of people in 2 hours that night, but one of the ones that stands out in my memory was Ben. His wife had just been diagnosed and was about to start treatment. They had waited nine years to adopt a child and were finally granted their wish this year, then his wife was diagnosed with cancer within months of their new baby coming along. Cancer affects so many families, it does not discriminate, age, race, financial status, professional occupation, it just hits so many people and I wish that the cure was easier to withstand than the toxic, long term treatments currently available and I wish that everyone diagnosed had the opportunity to be cured. Thanks to Alison and Richard Kay at Dymocks for hosting us, and to everyone who came along and bought a copy (or 4) of our book at the signing. It was great to meet you all.
Photo of front window display and or photo from signing.

Writing this book has been a highlight of the whole Love Your Sister project for me. It has given me time to sit and chat and reflect with Sam on how it all came about and what it means to Sam and me, and what it might mean to my kids in the future. I didn’t think it was possible for Sam and I to get to know each other better, to become even better friends, but that is what has happened throughout the process of writing together. We have remembered things from our childhood that may have stayed buried in the deep recesses of our memories if we hadn’t tapped into it.

Not many people get the chance to publish a book in their lifetime, and again Love Your Sister has enabled us to tick another thing off my bucket list. Now is awesome.

Xx Connie

Hear and See What We've Been Up To!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Catching Up...

Calling All Scrapbookers

Scrap Booking Memories will be donating some of the proceeds of the October Issue of their magazine to Love Your Sister. So if you are into craft, feel free to pick up the Pink Issue from Newsagents, Woollies or Coles from October 4 and 20 cents from every issue sold will be donated to LYS. The Pink Issue will also contain an article about Love Your Sister, so happy reading!
Thanks so much to the ongoing support of Scrapbooking Memories, and a huge thank you goes out to the masters for making such a beautiful and personal gift, all for women they don’t even know!
If you are into scrapping and would like to show your support to a magazine that supports Love Your Sister, please head to their facebook page and chuck them a like, you might just love what you see there!

Never Forgotten

In my last blog post, you saw that Love Your Sister lost two close friends, Moira and Josie, both to breast cancer. On Friday 11th July I attended Moira Lye’s funeral. Moira herself found that one of the most confronting parts of having terminal breast cancer is attending funerals. Moira and I were both Canberra Mums who have done a lot of advocacy and fundraising around the breast cancer issue. Sam mentioned to me how much he thought we had in common, and the similarities brought it home to me at her funeral. Attending the funeral of someone who has died of the same disease that you are living with is very confronting, not only was I sad for the loss, and sad for her family, but I couldn’t help but think about my own fate, and picture my family and friends, and most of all my little boys in the same situation. We continue to think about Moira and Josie’s families and wish them some peace during this hard time.
Thanks to everyone on our Facebook page for sending thoughts, prayers and condolences to their families and for showing your love. Even people who had never met Moira or Josie were saddened by their passing and it was very touching for Sam and I to see such a show of support, and I am sure it brought some comfort to their families at a difficult time.

Mornington Secondary College 

Mornington Secondary College is one of the high schools that Sam and I attended while we were growing up, and they have been a huge supporter of Love Your Sister. Their drum corps performed at the launch and return events, when Sam left and returned from his epic ride, adding much pomp and ceremony to both events. The textiles class made huge banners and flags for the events, and they vowed to match Samuel $1 for every kilometre he cycled through fundraising events at their school and in their local community. So while Sam has been pedalling, they have been busy fundraising, and last week, they presented Sam with the grand total at a school assembly held for Love Your Sister.

Through many events, Mornington Secondary College raised a massive $16 491!!!!!! This fundraising has all been driven and co-ordinated by the students themselves and Sam and I couldn’t be happier or more proud. Thanks so much to MSC and to the Mornington community in general who altogether have raised over $51 000 for Love Your Sister since February 2013. Amazing!

Every year Mornington Secondary College holds a Presentation Ball for the Year 11 Students. This year Sam and I were invited along and the debutantes were presented to us! Little ‘ole Sam and Connie eh? I had never been to a deb ball before, as I had never done my deb myself.

There were 54 couples, the boys looking handsome and rather dashing in their suits with tails and white gloves, and the young ladies looked a picture, so beautiful and elegant in their pretty white dresses. Each couple came out onto the stage and were announced, then the partner walked down the stairs and awaited hand out for her, then they walked slowly up to us and while they did, the school captains read out their interests, what they were studying and their future aspirations. I felt honoured that so many of the Students mentioned that Love Your Sister was their favourite charity in their summaries. Then the deb was presented, she did a curtsy, and her partner who bowed. We were so honoured to be in the role, but I’m not sure who was more nervous, them or us. They all did so well, I was so impressed with the rituals and dances and how they performed them.

The whole room was set up with Love Your Sister pink sashes around the chairs, pink chocolates and programs on the tables; the lads all wore Pink neckties and had pink roses in their lapels, the ladies all had pink bouquets. The principal, Sarah Burns, did a beautiful speech about Love Your Sister at the opening of the evening. After I mentioned in my speech that I had never done my deb, the school captains cooked up a little scheme. They arranged to have Sam and I presented at the end of the formal presentations. It was so cute and lovely, and while I was being walked down the dance floor on Sam’s arm to be presented I thought “Tick”. It was never a bucket list item, but the students found a way to give me an experience I would never forget, and now I have formerly presented. What a heart-warming experience.

Then we did a dance, which was absolutely hilarious, ‘cos neither Sam nor I know how to dance, then we swapped partners with some of the debs and their partners, and they danced properly while Sam and I fumbled clumsily around the room laughing awkwardly. It was so much fun. I would never have thought that I would be presented to society, fancy that!

Just before we left we were presented with some lovely gifts, The fabrics class had made me a gorgeous rainbow coloured quilt, and a bag to go with it. I love it, it is so bright and cheery and beautifully designed and crafted. It’s going to be my hospital quilt, because I like having my own blanky and pillow in hospital, it makes it feel less sterile. Thanks to Gene, Georgia and the fabrics class for such a beautiful and personal gift.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Mum and Uncle Long Legs

Well the last 5 weeks has been an interesting time for me. My lovely husband Mike has been away and I have been a full time single Mum during that time. Since I got diagnosed in July 2010 Mike has been caring for me, caring for our little boys, running our bookshops, and studying. He has an enormous load to bear and he takes it in his stride and somehow gets through every day with little sleep and loads of stress, but always appreciating the little things in life. He is an amazing, supportive and loving husband and I am so glad we share our lives together.

When I suggested that Mike take a hard-earned break, he was hesitant, and really didn’t want to leave me alone in case anything happened. He was terrified that I would take ill and die while he was away, or that I would get so sick that I couldn’t look after the boys. Not to mention that leaving a family run business for a month is a big deal, and big ask of the staff and very expensive. Eventually he took to the notion and excitement started to build, the doubt subsiding slightly. So in mid-June Mike set off on a lone adventure, leaving me to go full mumsy.

I had lined up support, a steady stream of family and friends coming to help. It was all scheduled down to the minute, and if anything did go wrong, there would always be someone here to help me out. We had Chris, (Mike’s Mum: Nanna) Sam, cousin Roger and Em (Little Miss Get It done, love Your Sister administrator) all coming up. Over the time of the ride, I was so busy that I didn’t really get to see a lot of my family and friends at all, it was all work, work, work, so this is a lovely opportunity for me to catch up with some loved ones, and the kids always love having visitors.

The boys are very excited to see their Nanna and their uncle long legs in the same week. Sam fits into the uncle role right away. Sam has the boys convinced that he can fly on a broom, but that he has had his license cancelled because he stole some undies off a clothesline while he was flying through some backyards recently. Willoughby asks when he is getting his license back as soon as he comes through the door. 
Koala Cuddles with Uncle Long Legs
The kids do their readers, times tables, geography and French every night, showing off to Nanna and Uncle long legs. I am free to cook the dinner, clean up and make lunches while the kids play Uno with whoever is staying at the time. I love that the kids don’t watch TV. Dad brought Sam and I up without a television, and at the time I hated it, I thought we were missing out, but I look back on our childhood now and I am so grateful that he gave us that life. Board games, cards, charades and eye spy were all we needed. On Fridays we have Friday night fun, where the kids get to choose a DVD and dinner, so we make pizzas or fish and chips and watch a movie together on Fridays which is great fun, and a great bribery tool for during the week, if I need it. I always thought I would never use bribery, but as soon as I became a parent I quickly realised that you do whatever works at the time, so the threat of losing Friday night fun mitigates any out of control behaviour nicely.

Of course we all miss Mike, but we skype and email, and I find that the kids adjust well to the change in primary carer very quickly. I think about the changes they will have to undergo when I die, and this experience gives me comfort. Kids are adaptable and they are resilient. Mike is a great father and those things combines make me think that they will be alright in the long run. Of course it will be hard for them, but they will adapt, just like they adapted to Mike’s temporary absence so well.
The Kids Favourite – playing Uno with Uncle Long Legs
I find the mornings difficult. I sleep a lot, I get very tired with the cancer and the drugs that I am on, but with Mike away I don’t have a choice, so I get used to the early mornings, though I do have the luxury of being able to go back to bed for a nap while they are at school. Something I am very grateful for. There have been a lot of times since I got diagnosed when I have thought “Why me?” It’s not that I wish it was someone else, I just wish it wasn’t me and I sometimes long for the life we used to have when I was healthy. But then I quickly remind myself that I have it pretty good really. I have the most supportive hubby in the world, and he lets me sleep when I need it. He does all the chores, prepares all the meals, makes all the lunches and does all the washing. He is very helpful and never complains or even expects a pat on the back for his efforts. Sadly, there are a lot of single mums who find themselves with a terminal diagnosis and they do not have the support I have, and nor do they have the comfort that their kids will be in good hands after they die. It’s all relative isn’t it?

Another thing I didn’t have much time for while the ride was on is scrapbooking and craft. Recently, we were given an amazing opportunity. Scrap Booking Memories run a competition every year, where they encourage scrapbookers from all around the country to submit four projects to be judged. Ten of the best scrapbookers from all around the country are selected, and throughout the next year they complete challenges that are published in the magazine. For the October issue (breast cancer month) their task is to make an art journal. The editor of the mag, Vanessa, thought it would be nice to give the journals that the masters made, to women with breast cancer who would like a handmade journal to write their most precious memories in. When I was first diagnosed, the first thing I thought was “How am I going to record all of our memories so the kids have something to remember me by?” As I am a mad keen crafter, I got right into scrap booking and I use that as a way to process my experiences and leave memories for the boys.

This gift, from the Scrapbooking Memories Masters to 10 women with terminal cancer is just so kind, and it highlights to me just how lucky we are at Love Your Sister to have the opportunity to help these women in some small way. I put a call out on Facebook, and we found 10 recipients for the journals, all of them living with a terminal diagnosis.

I wanted to make cards for the ladies, which would match their journals, so Sam and I could write a little message for each person in them. And let’s face it, it gives me a good excuse to do some craft, it’s for work, really it isJ.

We can’t show you the journals, as they won’t be made public until October, but here are the cards I made, inspired by the journals the masters made:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


Today is a sad day. Today it is hard to find the silver lining. It is dark and the tears are flowing. It doesn’t feel right to smile. Today I found out about two women dying on Saturday. They were both friends of Love Your Sister. They both had breast cancer.

Moira Lye

Moira featured on the Love Your Sister TV Special. She lived in Canberra, wife to Greg and Mum to 5 children, the youngest of whom are twin boys aged 6.  She did not take her cancer diagnosis lying down. Moira was a determined person and she was willing to squeeze every last moment out of life, every precious experience and each little smile or cuddle with her children.
And she was selfless. Although she was terminal, and knew that there was no cure for her illness, she worked hard on fundraising and advocating on breast cancer issues. I am in awe of what Moira achieved in this arena, she really made a difference, and did it all with such humble grace.
Moira was the sort of Mum every Mum wants to be. Gentle and fun-loving, patient and caring, but balanced and intelligent in her approach to parenting.
Sam and the crew got to spend an afternoon with her, and they all came back raving about how inspirational she was, how incredibly life affirming it was to meet her, I really felt like she was what I should aim to be. A great mother. An advocate for breast cancer issues and someone with peace about her prognosis.

Josie Gaylor

Josie is wife to Kevin and Mum of 2 grown up children. Josie’s sister Jane contacted Love Your Sister while they were making arrangements for Josie’s funeral, when it became clear after fighting breast cancer for 13 years, that she was coming to the end of her time. Josie wanted to make a difference, she wanted to make her funeral meaningful for the future, and chose to ask her friends and family to give a donation to breast cancer research in lieu of flowers at her funeral. Jane contacted us to ask for a collection tin.
Obviously Sam was touched by her gesture, and given that she lived in Melbourne, he wanted to meet her. So they teed up a meeting and Sam went along to visit her at Cabrini palliative care a couple of weeks ago. You may be familiar with Josie, because she and Sam put a post on Facebook when they met in the hospice. Sam had a blast hanging out with Josie that evening, and she helped him face his fears of hospitals and end of life care.

Without knowing them well these women have touched my life. I am in awe of their peace at the ends of their lives, and their selflessness. These two women were remarkable in their own ways, and have left big holes in the lives of the people who knew them best. I know they will be sorely missed by their families and friends.

I send my love and thoughts to Josie’s and Moira’s families and friends at this very hard time of loss and mourning, and thank them for sharing them with the world. I am so grateful for the way they touched my life. Thanks for being a part of Love Your Sister and for showing me what life is all about.

Whenever we experience a death of someone we know, even if it is not someone close to us, it calls to mind questions of our own mortality. It causes us to question if we are living life to the fullest, if we appreciate the beauty and love in our lives. We automatically think things like when was the last time I told my sister that I love her?

Death is a profound part of everyone’s life, and when the grief is at it’s purest and harshest, it can distort the way we normally perceive ourselves.

I have been incredibly lucky lately. My cancer has been stable. It is responding to treatment after being very aggressive and non responsive in the early stages of the disease. So it went from running rampant, to being under control, something none of us expected. I was so close to death a few times that my family were called in. My kidneys and my brain shut down. I was in ICU on machines and drugs that were keeping me alive in the hope that I would get better with support, and eventually be able to support myself again. I remember many doctors and nurses telling me that they were doing everything they could do to keep me alive, and to keep fighting.

Being that close to death, and living with a terminal prognosis everyday has caused me to live my life in the present and make the most of my relationships, because I have come to realise that that is all we have that matters in this life. But even with my diagnosis I have become remiss. I have stopped scrapbooking. This was number one on my bucket list. If nothing else, I want to leave lots of memories, photos and stories for my children to remember me by, and to give them lots of information about their formative years that they won’t be able to ask me about later if they get curious.

I am in a lot of pain tonight, on a lot of drugs and needed to take a bath to relieve some of the discomfort, so the bath is not the place for photos obviously. But tomorrow I vow that I will sort out some photos, write a note in the boys journals, or do a little bit of scrapbooking. I will do a little bit of memory saving for my kidlets. I will also give them an extra big cuddle and tell them again how much I love them.

Thank you Moira and Josie for reminding me to make the most of each moment. May you rest in peace, free from needles, nasty drugs, scans and bloodtests, surgery and endless appointments.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


How far would you go for someone you love…on a unicycle?

Hachette Australia is delighted to announce the publication of Love Your Sister by Connie and Samuel Johnson in November 2014.

Published by Hachette Australia in November 2014, trade paperback RRP $32.99; e-book RRP $19.99

A searingly honest memoir of family, love, cancer…and unicycles by the founders of the Love Your Sister Charity, Connie and Samuel Johnson.

Brother and sister team, Samuel and Connie Johnson have always been close. Faced with the news that they would soon be separated forever, they made a decision.

At the age of 33, Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having already survived cancer twice in her young life, this time it was a whole different ball game. This time she will die, leaving behind her two beautiful young sons. As a young mum faced with her own death, she wanted to make a difference, and she knew just the way to do it ─ send her brother, Aussie actor Samuel Johnson, on a one-wheeled odyssey around Australia.


  • To break the world record for longest distance travelled on a
  • unicycle
  • To raise $1 million for the Garvan Institute
  • To encourage young mums to be breast aware
Their message is simple; don’t fall into the booby trap, be breast aware!

Samuel has pedalled all around Australia on a unicycle, raising money and raising awareness to make sure people get the message. He travelled through every state and capital city, to Australia’s eastern-most and western-most points, our country’s highest and lowest places, and has ridden more than 15 000kms, smashing the existing world record.

Love Your Sister reveals Connie’s fourth, and secret aim; to fix Samuel. Their story tells how Samuel cleared his diary, cleaned himself up, and kept his promise to his dying sister. All the boxes are now ticked, nearly $2 million already in the research bank and many young mums have been diagnosed with early - treatable breast cancer because of Connie and Samuel.
The Love Your Sister Charity…it’s a great cause. Sam’s a great guy. – Guy Pearce
Samuel, I take my hat off to you…big heart, big life, big love. – Cathy Freeman

So is the job done?


Two million dollars is not enough, they are determined to keep up the fight. Connie vows to fight ‘tilher dying day, and Sam says the fight will go on a lot longer than that.
In their book, Love Your Sister, these two remarkable Australians share their tale, from their childhood, throughto the finish line and beyond in this truly unique story. Part memoir, part travel diary, part conversation, Love Your Sister is an inspiring and unforgettable book that shows just how far oneman will go for his sister.

A portion of the profit from each copy sold will go directly to The Garvan Institute.

Samuel Johnson is an Australian Actor with 20 years’ experience, best known for his work on The Secret Life of Us, Crackerjack, Underbelly II, and Ten’s Rush. In recent times he is more proud of his work as a breast cancer advocate and determined unicyclist.

Connie Johnson is a wife and mother of two beautiful boys. She has worked in the disability sector for 10 years and since her terminal diagnosis spends her time with her family, advocating on breast cancer issues…. and seeing just how much torture her brother will endure before he says no.

Follow Connie and Samuel on Facebook , Twitter - @loveyoursister and Instagram

For further information about Love Your Sister, please contact Alice Wood at Hachette Australia on 02 8248 0883 or alice.wood@hachette.com.au

Friday, 16 May 2014

TV Special Screening, Melbourne, 29thth April 2014

Since I dared Sam to ride around Australia on a unicycle, over 3 years ago, we have had a team of dedicated and committed film makers following our journey and recording it all. 3 years of planning and work, fundraising and awareness raising has been compressed into just 42 minutes of footage, which makes up the Love Your Sister TV special which will go to air on Channel Ten on Saturday at 3pm. I was one of the lucky ones to get a sneak peek at the advance screening for all of the volunteers who worked on the show. The preview was held in Fitzroy in Melbourne and was a great opportunity for me to meet the people behind the production and thank them for their hard work, and amazing results.  

Alistair Marks came on board right at the very beginning and started following us around with a camera while we planned Love Your Sister. We scurried around trying to get sponsors, worked out who the beneficiaries would be, and planned all the logistics of the event for 2 years before Sam even pedalled a metre. And Al was there with us, recording it all. Then he went on the road as well, filming things like Sam riding off a 60 metre high bungee tower. Al also became the LYS stills photographer and took a lot of the best shots that have been seen on facebook and instagram throughout the journey.

Stuart Liddell came on board just before Sam set off, and Stuey has been there, camera in hand, for most of the journey around Australia. He has endured high temperatures, raging winds, heavy rain, and the highs and lows of life on the road. He has sifted through and painstakingly transcribed hours and hours of footage.

Both Al and Stuey have seen us at our best, and seen us at our worst, they have witnessed the highs and the achievements, but also those moments when we thought that Love Your Sister was never going to happen, when we were in deep despair. Together, they have made a TV special of the Love Your Sister story, out of hundreds of hours of footage, they have sifted through it all, and dug out the highs and lows and made our story come to life on the screen.

They have worked with a team of editors, transcribers, and production and post-production professionals to make this a compelling hour of Television, and they have done it all for free. The entire documentary was made with a budget of $0. So please, if you watch the documentary on channel 10 on Saturday, please watch the credits, and clap for the professionals who gave their time and expertise out of the goodness of their hearts to make this doco. Hopefully it will move people, make people cry, make people laugh, and with a bit of luck, make people pick up the phone and donate, so we can keep raising money to fight breast cancer.

Making a TV show isn’t just about the footage. So much happens to it before we see it. There is graphics, colour grading, sound engineering, and of course, music. All of the music in the Love Your Sister TV special is original and has been produced by professional writers and musicians who have donated their time. 29 people worked on the writing, performance and recording of the score. Leading this team of dedicated professional musicians was Nick Marks, and he has done an amazing job.

I was gobsmacked at the quality of the production. Al, Stuey and Nick, and the countless other volunteers who worked on it have made something especially meaningful for me. For me it is more than the TV special. For me it is also a record of me for my  boys. When they grow up a little, and they have forgotten the sound of their mums voice, and the way I looked when I smiled, they will be able to see me, larger than life on the screen, and they will be able to see the work that Sam and I put in to try to make a difference to people with breast cancer and their families.

Sam and I lost our Mum when we were 3 and 4, and things were different back then. There were no mobile phones to take photos and videos on, so we didn’t have a lot of photos of mum, and we didn’t have any footage of her. Being as young as we were when she died, neither of us have any memories of her at all. When I was diagnosed, my children were 3 and 4, and I feared that I would die and that my memory would die with me, that the kids wouldn’t have memories of me. Now I have seen this TV special I know that even if the memories of me fade, my kids will always be able to watch this and remember their mum and how much she loved them.

So thank you Al, Stuey and Nick, and everyone who gave their time to this project, for making these memories for my children.

TV Special Credits, Thanks to every single person who made this TV special, so very, well, um, Special!!

Presented by
Guy Pearce

Produced by
Samuel Johnson
Alistair Marks

Directed by
Alistair Marks
Stuart Liddell

Post Production Producer
Stuart Liddell

Edited by
Stuart Liddell


Joao Dujon Pereira
Cindy Clarkson

Director of Photography
Alistair Marks
Stuart Liddell

Camera Operators
Alistair Marks
Stuart Liddell
Leighton Thomas
Jonno Hinton

Written by
Stuart Patch Liddell
Alistair Marks

Assembly Editors
Lucy Paplinska
Jaklene Vukasinovic
Lidia Costa
Bill Kalajdziovski
Belinda Fithie

Assistant Editors
Bill Johnston
Ariel Shaw

Supervising Editor
Peter Carrodus

Post Production Supervisor
Belinda Fithie

Brenton Matulick
Katherine Eden
Ben Praccus
Kate Candlish
Nadine Barry
Nadia Ali

Production Manager
Emma Rooke

Original Score Composed by
Nicholas Marks

Score Produced by
Richard Stolz @ Woodstock Studios
Nicholas Marks

Audio Engineer
Richard Stolz
Assistant Engineer
Luke Mullan

Sam Hirschfelder (Drums)
Nick Martyn (Percussion)  
Luke Mullan (Percussion)
Matt Hayes (Electric Bass) 
Brendan Tsui (Electric Bass) 
Grant Higgins (Acoustic / Electric Guitars, Ukelele)  
Andy McGarvie (Electric Guitar, Claps and Foot Stomps) 
Ryan Lim (Electric Guitar FX)  
Jules Pascoe (Double Bass)  
Brae Grimes (Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet) 
Alex Howroyd (Flute, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Whistle) 

Jess Palmer   
Kate Kelsey-Sugg  
Rachael Comte    
Lauren Glezer  
Noah Rosenbloom 

Lizzy Welsh (Violin) 
Phoebe Lindner (Violin) 
Christian Read (Viola) 
Caerwen Martin (Cello)
Kain Borlase (Double Bass) 

French Horn
Lauren Davine 
Matthew Coulsen
David O’Meara
Peter Marks 

Simon Carter
Daniel McIlvride   

Licensed Music Credits
Hiatus Kaiyote
Leap Frog
Lace Skull
Mobius Streak

Hey Frankie
I see you
All I want

Charity Rose Turner
Into the Stream
Sailing Along

Alicia and Glass Lake

The Box Tiger
Hospital Choir

Testimonials Supplied by

Nick Cooper

Sound Mix
Paul Shanahan @ Final Sound
Laura Hesse @ Final Sound

Colour grade
Vincent Taylor

MoVI Operator
Cam Batten

Road Crew
Leighton Thomas
Alistair Marks
Jonno Hinton
Stuart Liddell
Sarah Hallam
Gemma Fisher
Amanda Nelson
Dion Szer
Nathan Wentwort

Thanks To
Connie Johnson
Hilde Johnson
Michael Johnson
Willhougby & Hamilton Johnson
David Johnson
John Johnson
Jamie Johnson
Optical Alkemi studios
Final Sound
Woodstock Studios
Ben Joss
Jon Barrie
Chris Walker
Karl Stefenovic
Carrie Bickmore
The Project
The Today Show
LateNite Films
Andy Kaos
Mara-Jean Tilley 
Andrew Giles
Kylie Sherwood-Kelly 
Charlie Rooke
Dez Stallard
Kate Radford
Steph Farmelo
Mel Van Deventer
Justine Bloome
Solitaire Paul
Tony Hayes
Mark Brewster
Jacob Zhivov
Andrew Mara 
Louise Munnoch
The Johnson Family
The Thomas Family
The Marks Family
The Liddell Family

Writing Holiday with Sam, 30th April – 10 May 2014

When Sam got back from his ride around the country, we were determined to take a few days off together and have a break, with no work, no unicycles, and no cancer to get in our way, just a nice little family holiday. That was back in February, and things have been so busy since then that it has taken us until April to get around to it!

But boy was it worth the wait. Sam took me and our other sister, Hilde, the healthy one, on a cruise. We went to Vanuatu and New Caledonia. His idea was that if he can’t take me to France, he could at least take me to a French speaking country. I can’t go to France because I can’t get insurance and if I get sick over there it would bankrupt the whole family, so he thought that a cruise, with a doctor on board to a place just a few hours flight from home would be a much safer bet. It was a good gamble, because I didn’t sick at all, and we didn’t end up needing health care. Yay!

None of us had ever been on a cruise before and now that I have been, I get why people love them so much. It was so much fun. But the best thing about it of course was getting time to spend with Sam and Hilde.

But it wasn’t all beer and skittles. Sam and I have a book deal, and are planning on releasing our memoir (about us, our family and our Love Your Sister journey) in November this year. This means we have a book to write, and we have to do it fast. So we did some writing most days, and shared ideas and talked about and planned the book. Since Sam is in Melbourne and I am in Canberra we don’t often get to sit down together and have a chat, and chatting about the book was great, he inspired me to keep on writing, to keep on getting the words on the page. We have written tens of thousands of words between us already, and we haven’t even gotten to the Love Your Sister bit yet. The story goes right back to when we were kids, and how close we were as youngsters, and how we battled through my first cancer together, and all the highs and lows since then.

So although we were sailing the pacific in a magnificent cruise ship, we were also working. No rest for the wicked I guess.

And I got my little French experience. We went to Noumea and Mare in New Caledonia where I got to practice my French and eat a crepe. The mixture of cultures is fantastic. You can order a crepe on the beach, and have it with a fresh coconut with a straw. Fabulous.


Sam enjoying the tranquillity of the Waterfall and lagoons at Port Villa.


We met heaps of people on board. Lots of people came up to us and said lovely things about Love Your Sister, I felt a little bit famous, it was weird, but wonderful. We made some friends, wrote some of our book and had lots of precious family time.

Thanks Sam for taking us on a holiday, and for believing that I could go on a holiday and not get sick. I have been living in fear for so long and you gave me confidence to try new things and live in the moment. I love you brother.