My training for the Ride to Conquer Cancer is underway now. I’ve done one 23km ride and surprised myself by a) completing it and b) not hurting too much. I’ve increased the length of my gym workouts, building in extra strength work to build the muscles that will power me up the hills.

Here’s the thing that is driving me on this week. Like most people, I’ve lost someone I loved to cancer. My mum died of lung cancer, eight years ago – just a few days after my first daughter was born. She lives on in my heart, but there are not many days that pass when I don’t wish she were still here to see her granddaughters growing up.

As I spin my wheels up a hill or work up a sweat at the gym, I think of her. Always my biggest supporter, mum was a generous spirit who would love to see me doing something to cancel out cancer in the lives of others.

The Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer® is a unique, two-day cycling event. On 18-19 August 2012, a couple of thousand people will cycle over 200k through Queensland’s scenic countryside to conquer cancer. The money we raise for The Ride will benefit the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, a worldwide leader in cancer research and discovery. QIMR devotes half of its research to understanding the causes of cancer and developing better diagnostics and treatments. Our efforts will have a real impact in our community, across Australia, and around the world.

If you’d like to back me in the Ride, please make a donation online. In January I’ll be offering special sales on my book Positive, about 50 amazing people who found life in the midst of cancer, to help raise funds for the Ride too. Watch this space to find out more.

[Disclaimer: those are not my legs in the photo – still a way to go before I’m that fit.]

An interview with Elliot Perlman in the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Good Weekend magazine contained a lovely thought about writing and inspiration. I haven’t read his books (yet!) but I like what he says here – it also connects with what I’ve been talking about with other writers lately about needing to switch off parts of your brain at various stages of the writing process:

Seldom are those moments when you feel as though there’s an antenna attached to your head that’s receiving direct communication from the sky. Most of the time you’re slogging away and trying to get rid of the voice in your head that’s saying, “That’s not very good”. Of course, you have to have inspiration sometimes, otherwise you’ve got no basis for telling a story. But once you’ve had that, it’s overwhelmingly perspiration and endeavour.

What is the process of inspiration like for you? Do you have to consciously switch off your internal ‘critical voice’?

Next August, I’ll be participating in a 2-day major cycling event called The Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer®, benefiting the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR).

I’ll be cycling over 200 kilometres that weekend through Queensland’s scenic countryside, with thousands of other riders. All the proceeds will go to QIMR: a worldwide leader in cancer research and discovery, and one of the largest research institutes in the southern hemisphere.

I’ve agreed to raise at least $2,500, but I’ve set my personal goal to $3,000. So here’s where you come in – because I need your help to do that. Please consider making a donation of $100. Use the link here to visit my webpage and support me. It’s easy to set up a regular payment plan, too, if you prefer to spread your donation across several months. Please keep in mind the commitment I’m making to end this heartbreaking disease, and the personal efforts I’ll have to make to accomplish this.

When I say ‘heartbreaking’, here’s what I mean: with 1 in 2 Australians diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and an estimated 115,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia in 2011, cancer is the second leading cause of Australian deaths and affects almost 20% of the population. More than 43,600 people are expected to die from cancer in 2011. That’s why I’m riding. To do something BIG about cancer. I hope that you’ll share this incredible adventure with me by supporting my fundraising efforts.

One of the major ways I’ll be fundraising is by donating the profits from my book Positive. This book is a collection of 50 stories of people who, against all odds, have found something good in the midst of their cancer experience. One of the big reasons I’m doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2012 is to honour the amazing people who contributed their personal stories to Positive.

Every copy of Positive bought directly from me (personally or through my website) will play a part. I’ll have more information on that for you in January, once I’ve got the webpage up and running.

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

In the Dec 11/Jan 12 issue of Melbourne’s Child, I write about what it was like to be struck by grief from two directions just after my first child was born.

The morning after my first daughter was born, my father visited us at the hospital. He brought a stuffed Winnie the Pooh toy for his new granddaughter. I loved that, especially because I remember Dad reading Pooh Bear stories to me when I was little. He did the voices so well.

It’s one of those everyday memories, but it’s only now, eight years on, that I can write about it. You see, Dad visited us by himself because at the same time my mother was in another hospital being treated for lung cancer. She had not wanted aggressive treatment: she was 75 and had smoked for many years before giving up in a courageous late-in-life effort, so her illness came as no surprise to any of us. …

See the print edition for the full story.

Smug, smug, smug – it’s one of those words that the more you say it, the stranger it sounds.

What is it about human nature that means we feel better about ourselves when we hear about someone else getting it wrong? It’s why gossip magazines sell in the millions, pushing sales with pictures of celebrities getting into endless varieties of trouble. It’s why we read about mothers who drive and breastfeed at the same time and think, ‘I might not be the best parent on the block, but at least I wouldn’t do THAT.’

Read the full post at happychild here.