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About the Book

Sometimes we long to step off the merry-go-round but few have the courage to take the leap.

For 40-something Fiona, that leap became
an imperative. In Drink the Wild Air, she chronicles the unravelling of her life with
an arresting and confronting candour. 

When the story opens, Fiona is a successful professional who cannot abide the thought
of failure. Despite an uneasy but increasing dissatisfaction she battles on, until she is diagnosed with cancer.

Drink the Wild Air

We are plunged into this poignant tale as if
we were by her side - crying, laughing, loving and discovering. Things just seem to happen to Fiona; nothing remains undisturbed. Her irreverent wit and pithy perspective on human interactions - along with a range of inspiring and courageous characters - will keep the reader engaged and entertained.

As her journey progresses Fiona is forced
to deal with her deepest insecurities and personal fears. Through her acceptance of the changes that cancer has wrought on her, she embarks on the pursuit of a passionate life:
one that is a kaleidoscope of warmth, love, laughter, creativity and friendship. She learns that true strength comes from accepting her vulnerability and that happiness is a choice to live fully in the moment, rather than allowing the beauty and joy of the here and now to be hijacked by the uncertainty of tomorrow.

Emotionally raw, this rollicking read is ultimately warm and uplifting.

Who am I

Who am I? …

The girl in the low-cut frock,
—great tits, party girl—
doing drugs in the toilet to get by.
‘Look at me! Look at me!’
she cries,
hoping no-one will notice
how empty she is inside.
Desperately lonely;
desperate for validation.
Maybe if I am lucky
and someone gets close enough,
they won’t hate what they see?
They can take the blackness away.
Thank you, cancer,
for I can no longer be that girl.

My body has gotten tired of my mind
and taken over the game.
No longer do I have the exterior
to get noticed.
No longer can I enter a room
confident of attention.
No longer can I wait for someone else
to rescue me.
Maybe now that the fakeness is on the
outside, I will have the courage
to confront and accept the real me,
without fear or loathing.
But what will I do if there is nothing
of substance?
Maybe it’s all fake?
What if I am an illusion
through and through -
a mindless vassal, serving only the
needs of others?
Nowhere to hide in therapy…
Dare I let my emotions
command my intellect?
Relinquish my control on the game?
The stakes are high.
Can I do it?
Put myself out there?
Finding my strength in
acknowledging my vulnerability?
Somehow, I will find the courage not
to care about rejection,
my soul no longer diminished
by each encounter.
Afraid of failure, even more
afraid of success.
‘Cause god knows what I would do if
somebody actually did love me.
Now that would be a challenge
to accept!
Much more comfortable to yearn
for the unobtainable,
keeping myself distant from those
around me;
protecting myself the only way I know,
showing only the strong, cool,
confident me.
Can’t let anyone smell my fear.
But again my body has rebelled,
fighting against my mind,
allowing the tears to flow, when I least
expect it.
Insight is easy, but change is hard,
so much harder.
I have hope and,
sometimes on a good day -
when I am not too busy beating
myself up—
I can believe that salvation lies in the
struggle, not the destination.
What matters is not forging ahead on
the path in front of everyone else,
holding the hands of those who walk
beside me,
- those who are just like me,
but not like me.
Moment by moment, embracing life.

About the Author

Fiona’s love of writing began at a young age and continued into her early years of high school. She was renowned for writing plays and cajoling her friends into performing them with her.

About the Author

She commenced her career with PricewaterhouseCoopers and became a qualified chartered accountant despite
being told by a senior partner, ‘You are a very extroverted young lady. The personality of a chartered accountant lies within certain parameters and your personality does not fit within those parameters.’ Although grossly insulted at the time, she came to view this as quite a compliment.

Fiona gained post-graduate qualifications in marketing while working across the eastern seaboard of Australia and, internationally, as an ‘agent of change’ for companies such as GE Capital Finance, The Brisbane Lions and Wunderman Cato Johnson. Caught up in her career, she completely lost touch with her creative spirit.

‘…You are a very extroverted young lady. The personality of a chartered accountant lies within certain parameters and your personality does not fit within those parameters.’

Fast forward 20 years… on the advice of her ‘shrink’, she started to write her story to help her deal with the emotional aftermath of her journey through cancer. She rediscovered a deep and abiding passion for writing. She consequently decided to step off the merry-
go-round of corporate life and set up her own consultancy. She currently lives in on the Gold Coast and works with small to medium enterprises to minimise their growing pains.

Fiona is currently working on her second
book A Risk of the Heart. Her blog focuses on the issues of dating as a forty-something single. It provides endless entertainment for both her married and single friends who vicariously live through her exploits and learn from them.

Her two favourite foods are ice-cream and chocolate.

What is Wild Air?

Fiona was enchanted when she and Alex Porter came across the quotation, “Live in the Sunshine, Swim in the Sea, Drink the Wild Air”. These words - and the quietly courageous Alex - were to become instrumental in her journey.

The quotation is an extract from the poem, ‘Merlin’s Song’, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The poem was also included in one of his most famous essays, ‘The Conduct of Life’, first published in 1860. It introduces Part 7, ‘Considerations By the Way’. The more Fiona read about the quotation’s genesis the more its words resonated with her. Emerson himself was no stranger to the transient nature of life. He lost his father as a young child. His first wife died at the age of 19, less than two years after they married, and his eldest son at the age of five.

Illustrations by Kate Knapp. Reproduced with permission.
© Twigheeds Pty Ltd (Australia) 2012 Save the Wild Air

‘Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.’

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

When Fiona first sat down to write her story, she struggled to articulate the question she was trying to answer. Without fully grasping this, it was difficult to decide what was relevant and what, despite its apparent entertainment value, was not.

Twenty-seven drafts later, she was still struggling. In fact, without the kind words of encouragement of one of her mentors, she probably would have given up. Sarah Armstrong, a successful published author, upon critiquing the latest draft, suggested to Fiona that she change the title of the book to Drink the Wild Air. Instantly, Fiona knew that this was the question she had been trying to answer: How could she drink the wild air? Re-energised and re-focused, it took her only another two years and 13 re-writes to finish the book.

In the Beginning

Download all of chapter one

A nurse came and collected me from the general waiting area for yet another test; a stereotactic needle biopsy.

They had already explained how the procedure would be conducted. I would be given a local anaesthetic; then my breast would be compressed in a special x-ray machine that would be used to locate the area of concern. A doctor would use a gun-like needle to take the sample. The whole process would take 20 to 30 minutes and while I was still in the machine, the sample would be tested to make sure they had what they needed.

I turned to Jac and said,
‘Uh oh, I think I’m in deep shit. This must be the
“you’re fucked” room.’

The nurse led me into a room in which two other women, a radiologist and a doctor, were standing surrounded by a jungle
of medical equipment.

‘Will this hurt?’ I asked.

The radiologist said,‘You might be a bit uncomfortable in the machine, but hopefully we won’t take too long.’

I took off the hospital gown. The doctor injected me with a local anaesthetic. I turned away — I’ve always hated needles. The nurse helped me to position myself in the machine. She lifted my breast. ‘Can you stand a bit closer?’ she asked.

I pressed my face against the cold metal and wrapped my left arm around the column of the machine as if I were a one-armed lover. This action lifted my left breast and enabled the nurse to put even more of it on the bottom plate. She stood beside me as the radiologist lowered the top plate until my breast was compressed between them. It was tight and uncomfortable. The radiologist pressed the button. But something was wrong, nothing happened.

Download all of chapter one

‘I highly recommend Drink the Wild Air to anyone. A great story of courage, triumph, pain , love and friendship.’

‘Heart felt, beautifully written and honest.’

Liz Badge

‘From the first chapter my interest was captured as Fiona chronicled, in her unique and readable style, her quest for meaning, reason and
love in her life.

‘To the outside world, she is enjoying the endowments of a remarkably successful
career for a woman of such a tender age,
yet her increasing discomfort with the lack of satisfaction attained from achieving such heights is honestly and entertainingly told.

‘Her growing understanding of herself, life and love, precipitated by always interesting, often humorous, sometimes sad, and ultimately life threatening events, awakens questions in one’s own life regarding the the issues with
which she wrestles.

‘Her pithy portrayal of floundering in the world of ego, in-congruence, superficiality and what we all call “business”, experienced by so many but confronted and transcended, let alone
voiced by so few, is…

‘entertaining , thought provoking and a damn good read’

Steve Turner

‘Fiona’s story shows that life can indeed get better after breast cancer. from her diagnosis, treatment, recurrence and physical recovery, Fiona gives advice for personal growth, acceptance and mental recovery by
‘seeking happiness from within’.

and informative.’

Prof. John Boyages, MD, PhD

Author, Breast cancer: taking control www.breastcancertakingcontrol.com

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From Fiona’s Blog

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This blog’s about the travails of dating as a 40-something woman who is learning to accept herself and realising that attractiveness and self-assurance have nothing to do with perfection.

December 23, 2013

Enrichment Lesson
Nothing inspires more than learning that you have inspired others.

Went into Lorna Jane at Coolie and was served by the gorgeous Lindy. We were chatting away when she said, 'Oh my God you're that girl! I heard you on the radio this morning. I couldn't get out of the car until you finished the interview. You're amazing give me a hug.'
Of course I promptly did.
She said, 'You've made my day.'
I replied, 'No you've just made mine.'

Listen to my radio interview on vulnerability, breast cancer and why I wrote Drink the Wild Air.

July 24, 2013

Enrichment Lesson
Love is an action not a feeling.

What is romantic love? Infatuation? Passion? Chemistry?
A meeting of the heart, mind and soul. A combination of all those elements that instinctively draws us to one person over another.

I rather like Dr G’s definition of love “a commitment to nurturing our own and the other’s personal growth.” It’s hard to cling to the remnants of something masquerading as love when you use this definition. Love should be a safe haven where you can challenge and nurture each other with honesty and respect.

So where does passion fit? How do we know what is real and not some passing whimsy that will disappear once the first blush of romance has faded? The trick is not to get distracted by the icing. Often I am attracted to the frosting and I commit before I have tasted the cake, or considered if I would enjoy it unadorned.

I look at the couples around me. Some of my friends openly admit that they have fallen out of love and stay together for the sake of the kids, or because its easier. As if that’s all you can expect after the honeymoon years are over. Others are together and profess their love for each other; but in reality lead their own lives. Focused on careers and individual pursuits, sharing little as a couple but worn into the groove of habit. Others are caught up in the bitterness of their divorce and are unable to relinquish the grip of the past. However there are a select few that inspire me to continue my elusive quest for the Holy Grail.

Friends of mine are celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary this week and they are still very much in love. Her eyes light up when he enters the room, his compassion and caring is evident in his awareness of her every move. Somehow the sum of the two enhances each of the individuals. It’s clear that they complement and cherish each other.

I used to get excited about every potential new partner. I would ask myself “is this the one?” I would indulge in lengthy flirtations and protracted phone calls. Often I was reluctant for things to progress as I was hesitant to shatter the illusion of the fantasy relationship inside my head. This was far preferable to the kick of reality. Once the thrill of the chase had passed the words “what was I thinking?” often popped into my mind (and out of the mouths of my friends). I was far too busy sticking my finger in the icing to notice the cake.

In taking that leap of faith to progress a relationship the potential for failure is high but the greater the risk the greater the reward. I don’t believe that there is just “one” right person for anyone. There is no certainty but if I have the courage to open my heart, soul and mind, I might discover someone with which I can forge a connection and trust that will continue to grow and nurture. The true test of a relationship comes in the minutiae and obstacles of everyday life. Those days when I and my partner see each other warts and all and are no longer playing the roles of Prince Charming and Snow White. When I allow myselfself to be truly vulnerable I can discover who is standing beside me and who truly has my back. That to me is the basis for a meaningful relationship.

As Brene Brown states: “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves."

I no longer wish to dawdle in the fantasy of infatuation as delicious as it may be. I would rather take the calculated risk of opening my heart and soul in the unrelenting light of reality. In the words of Lord Alfred Tennyson “Tis better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all.”

So I will take the leap and when I don’t make the landing on the other side, pick up the pieces of my heart, dust off my tattered pride, learn from the experience and move on.

November 14, 2009

Enrichment Lesson
Quantity is no guarantee of quality.

I went on three dates in one day. With the wisdom of hindsight this was probably excessive! At the time, I thought the more frogs I worked through, the greater the chance of finding a prince.

The first date 6.00 am, I combined my date with my morning walk. I was multi-tasking, to assist with time management. We were walking along the beach when his sneakers got wet. I thought he was going to cry, (what a sooky la-la)! Personally, I am a barefoot kind of gal.My feelings about our incompatibility only increased. He asked, “What are you doing for the rest of the day.” I believe that “honesty is the best policy,” so I replied, “I have a few more coffee dates lined up.” _ He paused looked at me and said, _“I find people in that position very unattractive.”

I pondered his statement for a few moments and reflected on the possible interpretations. I realised that there was only one. He has just told me, that he found me, “very unattractive”. The Goldilocks inside of me knew that this particular bowl of porridge was way too cold for me.

It was a very brisk walk back to our cars. I left him washing the ocean water and sand out of his sneakers. Undaunted I returned home to change for my next date.

11 am. We met at my favourite rendezvous, a licensed café by the beach. He arrived five minutes late. He had a slightly seedy look about him and was dressed all in black. I tried not to laugh when I notice his lizard skin shoes. He looked like he was on his way to a night club. I checked my watch, it was definitely 11.05 am!

He was not unattractive, but his face had the world weary look, of one who has over indulged. He did not work and lived off his investment income. His favourite past times were travelling on cruise ships and hanging out at the casino. I love to get off the beaten track and travel without an agenda. Gambling bores me. The only time I went to the local casino, the bar was filled with lecherous old men, wearing lots of gold jewellery and the latest fashion accessory draped over their arms; young brassy blondes with fake tits, the greater the cleavage, the lower cut the dress, the greater the prize. I could imagine him there.

He told me his last girlfriend was Filipino and the one before that Russian. Hmm I thought, did he find them in a mail order catalogue? By noon he was well into his second beer, ready to settle in for an afternoon drinking session. I was still on my first soda water. I excused myself to go to the ladies room and whilst powdering my nose, I arranged for an emergency rescue phone call.

I returned to our table and right on cue, my phone rang. “Sorry I have to answer this,” I told him,” it could be important.” I answered the phone, listened for a moment then said, “Oh really, that’s terrible, no probs I will be there in 15 minutes.” I hung up, looked at him and said “I’m sorry, I have to go, one of my girlfriends is having a domestic crisis.”

I left, thinking _this bowl of porridge is way too smooth for me. _Besides I am a stickler for personal hygiene and I suspected that there may have been a few too many spoons, dipped into this particular bowl.

The last date of the day. We met for coffee at 3pm. He seemed nice enough. We made small talk. After I finished my cup of tea I excused myself and went to the toilet. Just as I returned his phone rang. “Oh really,” he said. “No probs I can be there in 15 minutes.” He smiled at me, “Sorry, I’m going to have to leave.” Emergency rescue call I realised. Obviously, I was not to his taste. Forlornly I wondered Where is my bowl of porridge that is just right?.

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