Penny Johnston

Real Woman

Penny Johnston
Presenter ABC Babytalk and ambassador for the Mother’s Day Classic

We recently caught up with the incredibly inspiring Penny Johnston to have an NC makeover and find out about her journey.  Thank you Penny for your very candid insights into making every moment count.
Be sure to check out the before and after photos of Penny below!

Could you share with us a challenging life moment that has had a significant impact on your life.

Well it’s going to sound contrite but it is going to be my diagnosis with breast cancer.  I likened it to falling into a deep pool.  Remember when you were young and just learning to swim and you were going to touch the bottom of the six foot end… the water seemed to go for ever, and down you went deeper and deeper until that moment when you hit the bottom and could start pushing back up to the surface for air.  From the moment I first found a lump to starting my treatments, every moment was like falling deeper and deeper, the news kept getting worse and worse until I started treatment and I could find a new equilibrium and start swimming back to the surface.  It was very hard to let go of so much control, to put my life in the hands of medical professionals, to be told, no you can’t do that, to have to sit back and accept help from strangers, to let people know how afraid, how sick and how vulnerable I was.  Although I was afraid of all these things, it was amazing to discover how liberating it was to let go and accept the love and good wishes of everyone around me.

Please tell us something about your life before and how it is different now.

Before the cancer I would have pushed so hard to fit everything in, to be helpful to everyone no matter what the cost, to be everywhere at once, to say yes to everything.  Now I have to ration my time and energy, I’ve had to focus on what is the most important, my husband, my beautiful 5 year old Harry and as crazy as it sounds, to me!  I’ve become somewhat more selfish, I allow myself to rest, to be pampered, to do what I want first rather than last.  I really appreciate the small things because if you’ve had to look closely at your life it is those beautiful moments that are the most important.

What kinds of things are you passionate as a result of your experiences – have these changed/shifted?

To be honest some people are now going to say I am much more self oriented.  Before my cancer I would always be pushing to help, to fit everything in, to make sure I was helping everyone else.  Now I actually say no.  I have had to lose the excess in every way, things that don’t contribute to my core values any more are not even considered.  I am passionate about the incredible help and support I received during my treatment and my recovery, my McGrath Breast Care nurse was literally a lifesaver, the nurses on the Oncology ward, the team at the Rehab Centre, the wonderful team of medical experts that helped me and of course all the women that went before, who thought of ways to make things better, to make sure my journey was easier than theirs had been.  I am also passionate about making memories for my family, making sure we all experience as much love as we can in every day.

With the advantage of hindsight if you could travel back in time what would you tell your 21 year old self?

Wouldn’t everyone love this opportunity.. I would love to tell myself to stop worrying so much about things you can’t change!  All the hours of wasted worry about things that were, in the end so irrelevant!  Take better care of your incredible self, push yourself harder physically enjoy everything you are able to do and you are stronger than you imagine!

What advice would you give to any women reading this article.

Definitely take care of your health and following my experiences check your breasts for crazy lumps..remember there is something much worse than finding a lump that might be cancer, and that will be discovering cancer that has spread.  Be kind to yourself and push yourself to achieve what you’re only dreaming of at the moment.   A lot like my advice to myself at 21 you can do so much more than you imagine!  I have had  to creep so slowly back to health and exercise, my first session back at Pilates I burst into tears because it was so good to be back but also because I’d put off doing it while I was healthy because I thought it was too expensive and I didn’t have time.   You are worth every investment you make in yourself whether it’s time to relax, to consider your life, to learn or to share something you know with someone else.

What’s something you’ve learnt about yourself that the experience of diagnosis and recovery has revealed?

Well I think I’ve discovered that I’m stronger and weaker than I thought, while I know that sounds strange but I have been through so much having cancer treatment  but my family has been through it too, so we’ve formed a tighter team and realised how important we all are to each other.  I have learned to value what every day brings, to spend a little moment making sure every day is filled with as much joy and love as it can be.   I know that even if I am a cancer survivor for another 50 years it won’t quite be enough time for all I want to do and enjoy, I want to make memories for my son and my husband so that even if my time is shorter than I hope they will have had the best time ever with me around.  I have learned to accept help from others and be grateful for the people who have been the most amazing help.  I want to pass that love and help on to others as much as I can and I don’t want to forget I want these lessons stay with me forever.

What factors would you contribute to your recovery?

Good old science which I hope has blasted any spare cancer cells to heck because it nearly killed me!  But time, love, good food, the care of amazing medical professionals and support of incredible friends and family and believe it or not the passing of time and distance from the treatment makes me feel so much better.  I had an incredible medical team behind me, and going through chemotherapy in a country town like Ballarat meant that I would sometimes see the nurses and doctors outside of hospital.  Their incredible good humour and care has been such a support.  I find I’m often calling into the cancer ward on the way through to an appointment, I seem to be really keen to want to show them what I’m like when I’m healthy!  (And a great hairdresser!  Anyone who has lived without hair knows how much you miss your hairdresser… and when it’s inching back on your head, you need all their skill and ability to make it look as good as it can be!  I never ever knock back a compliment on my hair anymore and after having worn a wig I realise that your hair is your most important asset!)

Thank you for sharing your story Penny and also letting us share the before and after shots from our makeup session!  Hope you’re loving all your new NC products.

Message from Penny the following day:

PJ 1Penny-Johnston-with-makeup

“I was so happy with the way I looked after the first drop of makeup had been applied, and it only got better as we added more elements… and what made it better still was when I tried it again this morning (on my own) I looked almost as good as when it was applied in the hands of the experts!

I have been a bit of a brand girl for so long, I think I’d lost sight of how make up is supposed to suit you rather than the other way around, I just love the ideas and concepts behind Pam’s lovely company and I am very very grateful!  The before and after photos certainly tell the story!”