Seeing Me – My Story: Marie Bennetts OAM
Cancer survivor, Order of Australia Medal recipient and Millers Broadbeach customer Marie Bennetts shares her amazing story of strength, courage and positivity after undergoing life-threatening and life-changing surgery.
My life began in a country town; I was born to parents that were both only 18 years old when I arrived. The year was 1940 and World War II had begun. School life was normal and as a teenager I made many friends, worked long hours but always found time to party; I even learnt to smoke!
I was first introduced to lifesaving in 1968 when I married my husband, Brian and after having our son we put him into Lifesaving Nippers when he turned five. At first I helped with barbecues, administration, sales of uniforms, chaperone duties, publicity, then was elected as Hon. Treasurer – a position I remained in for three years. In 1986 I was approached and asked to nominate for the position of Club Hon. Secretary.
Image: Marie and Brian
Tragedy struck in 1996 when I was diagnosed with a malignant tumour, a polyp in my nose, I underwent four operations, one for nine hours and one for 11 hours and subsequently lost my left eye; I had massive life changing, surgery procedures over several months involving internal facial treatment but showed amazing strength of character throughout the whole ordeal. I kept a positive outlook and just regarded this time in my life as a challenge that, although life-threatening, could be overcome and the support of my family and wide base of friends assisted me throughout. Three teams of specialists worked on me, E.N.T., Neurologists and Plastic Surgeons.
During the surgery to remove my eye a section of my forehead (bone) was removed, this was later reinserted and wired in but my body rejected it so … back to surgery, this bone was removed and for six months I had no forehead, I just wore bandana’s and continued with my love of volunteering. A plastic forehead was eventually made and inserted and, thankfully, my body didn’t reject it.
Image: Marie without forehead, eye or teeth
The next tasks undertaken were to make teeth as I lost half my palate and glasses with a prosthesis eye attached – this all took time but I was slowly put back together – I was mended by ”miracle workers” and will be forever grateful to the doctors, surgeons and nurses who cared for me.
Meanwhile in surf club life I was presented with Life Membership in 1998 and had the honour of receiving an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2009, presented for 30 years of service rendered to lifesaving.
My next challenge was to write the surf club 50-year history – task completed!
Image: Me with the Bondi Lifeguards
As a Surf Life Saving Peer Support Officer for 13 years, I have been the ‘front line’ support for association members after they have been involved in a rescue situation or emergency incident at their club or beach.
I became a Justice of the Peace (Qual) in 1985 and have serviced the public in this role. More recently I joined the Gold Coast Justices Association and volunteer as a Justice of the Peace one morning a week in a local shopping centre. This role, helping people with their various forms and paperwork, is very rewarding and I feel is a great service to the community at large. I still assist at the surf club and amazingly one service compliments the other.
I have led a full adventurous life, have travelled extensively in Australia and love my country. I enjoy my life and find time for enjoyment and relaxation.
Marie Bennetts OAM
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