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I’m Jo Hilder, and I’m a writer and blogger living with my family in the city of Newcastle, on the east coast of New South Wales, Australia.
In July 2003, at the age of 35 and married with four children aged from 3 to 14, I was diagnosed with advanced Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Six months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy ensued. After achieving remission, I walked away from my own business and a 20 year career in the retail to pursue a passion to support and minister to those facing debilitating challenges such as cancer. I studied and attained a qualification in theology before training in 2005 with the Cancer Council of NSW as a consumer advocate.
In 2006, I accepted a role as facilitator for a cancer consumer advocacy organisation and began lobbying local and state governments to increase cancer services in non-metropolitan areas of NSW. I worked on several local and regional campaigns to have oncology specialists instated in country hospitals, and was instrumental in attracting government funding to the North Coast Cancer Institute to build a new oncology centre and install two radiotherapy machines. Since then, I’ve participated in various training events for consumer advocates and have worked hard to continue the pioneering of cancer consumer advocacy in Australia.
I spent several years after my remission as a public speaker, accepting invitations to various events and conferences and describing my experiences as a misdiagnosed cancer patient and on the survivorship phase of the cancer journey. I was subsequently employed by the NSW Cancer Council as Regional Programs Coordinator, and then as Relay For Life Relationship Coordinator, both for the mid-north coast region of NSW.
In 2009, I trained as a facilitator for the NSW Cancer Council Living Well After Cancer program, which I went on to deliver across NSW until 2010. My chemo nurse Vanessa and I then started a general cancer support group in Coffs Harbour which we co-facilitated until I moved with my family to Newcastle in early 2011.
I’ve also been fortunate to work for World Vision Australia as a Youth Relationship Representative, managing and facilitating the 40-Hour Famine program within schools across the north coast of NSW from 2007 to 2008.
More recently, I’ve been employed in the mental health sphere as a community rehabilitation support worker, supporting consumers with a schizophrenia diagnosis. I have also had my own issues with mental illness, having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-natal depression between the births of our children. I self-published my first e-book God You Can Take My Mental Illness – Just Not The Part Where You Speak To Me in early 2012. Things Not To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer is my second book, and the third book which tells the story of my own cancer journey will be published early 2013.
As at the time of writing I blog regularly, volunteer at a women’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre as a kitchen hand and work a couple of days a week in a cool hippy dress shop. I’ve a head full of hectic dreadlocks, and several large tattoos. I love my life, and have so much to be grateful for.