A 40-year friendship that started in a Sydney park has inspired Living Gems Ruby Gardens residents Terry and Alan Gent to Shave for a Cure.
Terry remembers that she was lonely after recently arriving in Australia in 1969 and went on a walk to the park, where she met Pauline.
“We started talking and that was that,” says Terry. “We have been friends ever since through thick and thin, it has been a wonderful friendship.”
Pauline has battled and beat cancer before, but this time it is in her bowels and it is terminal.
Terry wanted to do something in solidarity with Pauline and decided to shave her head before going to Sydney to visit.
“That will give her a bit of a laugh,” says Terry. “We haven’t told her that we are doing this at all.”
She was going down to the local hairdresser without any fanfare, but friends at the Beenleigh Bowls Club suggested she do it for a cause, so she got in contact with the Cancer Council.
Adding further inspiration was Terry’s ‘baby’ sister, Christine, who died of bowel cancer 10 years ago at much too young an age.
“It can strike anyone, and you never know when it will happen,” she says.
Friends at the bowls club and other residents at Ruby have rallied around the cause.
The bowls club has donated $100, and so has Living Gems. Raising a large amount of money was never the point, and there have been a lot of fundraisers at Ruby by Living Gems recently, so Terry set her target at $500.
“It wasn’t about money; it really is a labour of love for my girlfriend. She has had cancer before and beat it, but she has it again and it is terminal.”
The couple had their hair removed by a local hairdresser who donated her time on 28 July at the Ruby Gardens clubhouse in front of dozens of fellow residents and the Logan city Mayor Luke Smith.
On the evening, Terry and Alan raised $750. Combined with the amount raised online, the total is just shy of $1,000!
Terry is the oldest of seven children including three brothers and two sisters.
She and Alan left England in 1969, two years after they were married, bound for Australia as “10-pound Poms” as they were known.
Terry was only able to see her youngest sister a few times – every nine years or so, because of the cost of travelling to the UK – and at the time of Christine’s death, the first time the entire family reunited for the first time in 36 years.
Remembering what it was like to grow up in a council estate in Brighton by the Sea, Terry says it was a lot of fun.
“There was a big garden and everyone would play in the street. It has changed so much now. The park has been filled in and there are houses on it now.”
Alan and Terry wanted to buy a house in the early days after their marriage, but the prices were going up faster than they could save.
“Allan said, ‘how about we go to Australia?’ I had never been outside Brighton when I met him, so he told me about kangaroos and koalas. Because his parents had lived there, it was easy for us to get tickets.”
They paid 10 pounds each and nothing for the kids, and sailed on the Achille Lauro (which was later hijacked by the PLO in 1984, before sinking due to fire in 1994) for five weeks.
“There were no problems when we were on the boat though,” says Terry.
Along the way, the boat stopped at Malta, Marcita, Naples, Tenerife and Melbourne and Terry made the most of her time at each location.
She remembers landing in Sydney: “It was so how when we arrived in Sydney that I melted?”
The couple stayed at Villawood for 10 days – “that was truly, truly awful” – and then got a flat.
Alan signed up for the housing commission scheme the day he stepped off the boat and three years later he and Terry had a house in Sydney, which they bought for $13,000.
They later moved to Windsor and when the kids left home and Alan and Terry wanted to see more of Australia, so they moved to Western Australia, where they stayed for 20 years. “We saw everything there, north, south, every which way.”
A fortuitous trip to Ballina brought them in contact with Living Gems. While Terry and Alan didn’t like the feel of Ballina, they did see there was a seniors expo on at a local club and they went for lunch.
They found the Living Gems stand and liked what they saw.
“We wouldn’t live anywhere else,” says Terry.
Residents can expect to see a different look from Terry into the future, as she plans to stop dying her hair upon its return.
“For 40 years of my life I have been colouring my hair, and whatever colour it comes back as, that is how it is going to stay. If my girlfriend Pauline can live with stubble, I can live with that.”