Carol Malcolm
Mon, September 5, 2011 at 13:00
Stephanie Hunt in Carol Malcolm, Coffs Coast, Coffs Harbour, Margie Gill, Stephanie Ney, Stephanie Ridgeway, Stephanie Small

Stephanie Ney knows a lot of interesting people, but when it came to choosing the most interesting it didn’t take long for her to settle on Carol Malcolm.  Carol posed naked in Stephanie’s book Defining 4orty, which must have taken serious courage given she has had a mastectomy.  But it’s not Carol’s naked body, nor even her courage that fascinates Steph.  “She’s really into self love which sounds out there, but she does it in a grounded and practical way.  She’s started to use her skills in really important and empowering ways.” 

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Carol Malcolm: In her own words

Home from a morning surf, Carol Malcolm serves up a big healthy salad at the kitchen table of her Sawtell home.  Between crunches she talks about the ebbs and flows of her life.  With surprising openness she shares her story; it is an inspiring story, but it is also one Carol wants to tell in her own words.  So I've invited her to write my first ever guest post.  Enjoy this story of one woman's search for her authentic self.

Born in the early sixties, I grew up in a conservative middle class family, the youngest of four children. My father had polio as a child and was severely physically disabled.  Growing up with a father who achieved great success with his own business, and who became an Australian representative sports coach despite his disability has provided me with a constant source of inspiration.

I began to lose interest in school when I started high school. I found just sitting at a desk for hour after hour mind numbingly boring.  I left school to work in retail as soon as I turned 16, half way through year 11.

Previously, at 15, I had met my first serious boyfriend. I ended up in a very dysfunctional relationship with him that would last for eight years.  With the support of my sister, I managed to escape from that situation, leaving my car, furniture and most of the material possessions I had accumulated up to that point in the process.  Leaving was traumatic, the fragile sense of self-esteem that I had acquired when I met him was pretty much obliterated by the time I left.

I headed to W.A. to start a new life.  I set my sights on climbing the corporate ladder and working hard to secure a safe financial future for myself. I was ambitious, driven and successful. I met my future husband in the West and after five years we married when I was 30.

During our honeymoon I started to experience panic attacks, these soon developed into a full on anxiety disorder. It would take three years of research and a huge amount of perseverance to get better.  It was the start of my keen interest in reading and researching anything to do with emotional wellbeing.  Understanding why people do what they do – why some are happy and why some are not absolutely fascinates me.

On reflection, I think the reason I developed the anxiety disorder was because I was too scared to really be myself, the authentic me. I had become too caught up in my ego, seeking approval and worrying about what other people thought of me. Getting the anxiety disorder made me confront my vulnerability and realize that I really needed to care, nurture and learn to like myself if I was serious about getting better.

Around that time I was becoming disillusioned with my sales career – increasing a company bottom line was no longer as fulfilling as it used to be.  I had started to expand my latest role to encompass Human Resource Management (HRM) and took the opportunity to employ a young lady with a disability to work in my sales team.  I was amazed by the negative comments of some staff and became aware that there really were a lot of misconceptions in the community about people with disabilities.

I realised that it would be possible to utilise my skills to make a difference in people’s lives & sought employment in the disability sector. This would prove to be a significantly more rewarding career choice and I eventually became an Executive Officer with a large disability service.  I gained formal qualifications in HRM and worked full-time until I became pregnant with my first child Kate at age 36.

Having a child changed my life completely.While pregnant I organized to take six weeks off and planned to return to full-time work.  The minute I held my baby in my arms everything changed.  I was in love, all encompassing love.  Nothing came close to the priority of caring for my daughter and lucky for me my husband felt the same.  I resigned within two weeks of her being born.  Walking away from a successful & highly paid career to spend time with my daughter would prove to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Since that time I have been self-employed, working part time from home as a HRM contractor.  I gave birth to our wonderful son, Jack, at age 40.

At 43 I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes under my arm.  52% of women with the same diagnosis were not alive within five years.  I started eighteen months of surgery and chemotherapy.  My kids were 6 & 2 at the time of diagnosis.

Going into the chemotherapy ward every three weeks for eighteen months had an enormous effect on every aspect of my life.  Watching some people die from the disease, slowly becoming weaker and weaker each time I saw them was challenging and a real wake up call to what was important in life. 

My partner Hamish has always encouraged and believed in me.  His love and support throughout our life together has been a precious gift -particularly when we were dealing with cancer.

Recovering from the emotional and physical effects of dealing with cancer has been like a rollercoaster ride for me, and my family.  Moments of deep love, joy, and gratitude, have been interwoven with fear, angst, and despair.  Supporting other people to come to terms with life after cancer has become very important to me.  I volunteer with the Cancer Council and facilitate Living Well after Cancer programs throughout NSW.

Luckily, it is now six years since I was diagnosed.  I am incredibly grateful, happy and appreciative to still be here.  I’m fit, healthy and loving every moment of my life, well, most moments!! 

Right now, I’m just about to launch a new business, Innerpotential.  Through this business I will facilitate emotional well-being workshops and sell an online emotional well-being course.  I have also developed a selection process that will enable organisations to recruit and select people for their values, individual potential, and relationship capability.

What have I learnt along the way? Good health is a gift, value that and learn to love yourself, the real you.

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The most interesting person Carol knows is Margie Gill.  Margie is a nurse, but what fascinates Carol is her complete and enduring commitment to physical fitness.  “She’s an Australian champion in surf lifesaving, a triathlete and is incredibly fit.  But what is truly inspiring about Margie is that she always makes time to encourage and support other people to become as fit as possible.” Well, I’m just going to have to put my running shoes on and try to catch up with this super woman.

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Article originally appeared on The Most Interesting Person I Know (http://themostinterestingpersoniknow.net/).
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