When you meet Meg Russell, it’s almost impossible not to be captivated by her enthusiasm for life. The Sydneysider is a proud mother, grandmother, and by her own admission a ‘people’ person. It’s this energy, drive and compassion that inspired her to volunteer for the Pink Test in January of this year so she could help raise funds for McGrath Foundation. “I volunteered this year, and I had a ball. I helped every day, all day of the Pink Test in 2023,” she says.
Meg’s positive outlook has carried her through some life-changing challenges, including experiencing breast cancer herself and sadly losing her eldest daughter, Tracey, to breast cancer at the age of 43.
The BRCA gene was uncovered in Meg’s family when her youngest daughter, Kellie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 37, and then Tracey was diagnosed nine months later at the age of 41. At the time, both her daughters had young children and Meg gathered all her strength to support them all.
“My Queensland-based daughter Kellie had lots of travel to get medical care, more than 300km. But she always had a McGrath Breast Care Nurse for support over the phone, because of the distance. My other daughter Tracey was under the best possible care she could get in Sydney.”
While Kellie has been in remission for 14 years, Tracey, a single mum to a young daughter Caitlan, heartbreakingly passed away in 2012 on Valentine’s Day.
“We’ve learned to live with our story,” says Meg. “We can’t change it, so we don’t dwell on it.” Both Meg’s granddaughters have tested positive for the BRCA gene too. “My granddaughters, Caitlan and Reyne, are bright, successful, and courageous. They live with the possibility that they may experience what their mothers went through. They know at some stage they may need the support of breast care nurses.”
Meg’s daughter, Tracey, with her granddaughter, Caitlan
It’s this life experience and knowledge that has gifted Meg with such profound empathy when she wanders the rows of seats at the Pink Test, chatting to people and telling them about McGrath Foundation and raising important funds.
“Volunteering for the Pink Test was fabulous. When I would ask people to donate, they would tell me their story. One man said: ‘my daughter has just discovered that she has breast cancer’. I told him, ‘I’ve been there’, and I could relate to him on that same level.”
Meg can’t wait to volunteer at the 2024 Pink Test and encourages anyone going solo to team up with fellow volunteers.
“In my first Pink Test I was by myself, but then I teamed up with another lady and we clicked. So, each morning by 8 o’clock, we’d be walking through the crowd having fun.” Meg rang her daughter after that first day and said, ‘Kellie, I’m having the most wonderful time!’
Meg says whilst raising funds is important, it’s also crucial to have conversations. She says during the Pink Test she spoke to lots of people and explained that the carrier of the BRCA gene in her family was actually her ex-husband. “At the Pink Test, I said to men — it can happen to you too. So, if you want to pop a little money in the tin, it could help not only your wife, sister or daughter, but you too.”
She says if you are thinking of volunteering at the Pink Test in 2024, just do it — you will have such a great time. “Team up with other volunteers, smile, rattle your tin and put yourself out there. The worst thing anyone can say is no!”
Get involved and sign up now to volunteer for the NRMA Insurance Pink Test, Sydney Cricket Ground 3-7 January 2024!