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Every so often I’m lucky enough to get to meet somebody really inspirational and this time it was Everton Park local Denise Bowditch whom I met after being asked to set down her story for Village Buzz.

I’d had a brief introduction to the many tribulations she’s been through and I wasn’t sure what to expect when we met in Luv A Coffee recently. The pretty, composed lady dressed in cheerful colours who walked into the cafe came as a bit of a surprise because I had expected her many negative experiences to have left more of a mark.

In the next 45 minutes, however, I heard the full inspirational story how she didn’t allow that to happen to her. It’s a story of survival against the odds, endurance, a determination not to give up and a conscious decision not to allow herself to be defined by events she experienced.

“The thing is that a tragedy or misfortune is only a chapter in your life and you can’t allow it to define you. It can consume you if you don’t watch out but I decided not to let that happen,” she said.

Sixteen years ago, Denise was the mum in a happy and close-knit little family consisting of her, her husband Rick and their daughters Amelia, 9, and Tamara, 11. She had two adult children, Tina and Adam, from a previous marriage who were her only extended family.

Denise had just given up her work when Rick, who had been injured in an traffic accident with a petrol tanker and hadn’t been well, unexpectedly took his own life. The shock to the family was severe when they found themselves without him and any means of support.

With two dependents to care for, Denise didn’t have the option of collapsing into a heap and just had to ‘suck it up’ and go on. Paying the bills took a lot of juggling which she only just managed with some welfare support and a part-time job at St Anthony’s School in Kedron; that job kept the family in meals, she recalls.

Further shocks were in store when Amelia’s school friend and two siblings were murdered by the eldest sister’s ex-boyfriend. The double blow was too much for Amelia who began to retreat from the world and had to undergo treatment.

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The special needs teacher at Amelia’s school was very helpful in taking Amelia to her treatment sessions which was lucky because, in 2003, Denise was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a program of aggressive chemotherapy which made her so sick she was unable to care for her daughters.

She went to hospital for treatments and stem cell retrieval in case the cancer ever came back. The family also had to live with the fact that any infection at all would have been deadly in her weakened state so she also had to go to hospital as a precaution whenever her temperature went up.

This period was tough on Amelia but she had immediate treatment and a very supportive school environment. Stress and trauma affected Tamara too, but she internalised it and it took longer for the issues to surface. She has written elsewhere of her journey to recovery which makes inspirational reading.

The chemotherapy treatment is something Denise says she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy but recalls her doctors telling her that it would all come good in the end. And it eventually it did; the cancer was beaten, she was able to get back to work and the family could start to recover.

Amelia completed her schooling and got a job at Disneyland after gaining a qualification in events management while Tamara qualified as a hairdresser and opened her own salon in our area. Denise finally felt free to relax and travel and was Shanghai in 2016 when she received the news of the death of her son, Adam.

She says she misses him terribly but has come to accept that perhaps his passing was for the best. He had been living in very difficult circumstances and was finding it hard to accept he would never work again after a shoulder injury. Denise remembers he really hated the thought of bludging for the rest of his life and she is finding some sort of serenity and acceptance amid the grief.

Since our meeting I have been thinking a lot about Denise’s example and the benefits of making the choice not to let negative events and emotions consume us. The big lesson I learned from her is that negative emotions and events are part and parcel of our lives and even though we can’t control them, we can choose how we react.

Story for Village Buzz: Denise Bowditch



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One Comment

  • Annett says:

    I am so privileged to have Denise as one of my dearest friends. She is a tower of strength. She is an incredibly generous, caring woman who has the ability to make you feel very loved. When we think life is not fair I stop and say to myself, I have not had to endure the heartbreak and devastations Denise has, this then will put things into perspective for me.
    Denise has touched my life in a way I can never explain, she is loved very much.