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News > Success stories > What do you do when you get the worst news of your life?

What do you do when you get the worst news of your life?

BRIONY BENJAMIN (Class of 2003) - You hold your family and friends, you go wig shopping with a lump in your throat and, in Briony's case, you write your heart out.
26 Feb 2022
Written by Paris Faint
Success stories
Lymphoma survivor Briony Benjamin releases her book Life is Tough, But So Are You
Lymphoma survivor Briony Benjamin releases her book Life is Tough, But So Are You

What do you do when you get the worst news of your life? This was the question former All Saints Vice Captain Briony Benjamin (Class of 2003) asked herself when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 31.

At the time of her diagnosis, Briony was the Executive Producer of Video for popular Aussie news site Mamamia.

So, she answered this big question for millions of viewers through her viral video You Only Get One Life.

According to Briony, you lose your breath, you can’t believe this is happening – but you start to realise the world is full of extraordinary kindness, and when you’re in remission you feel grateful for the wakeup call that ‘you only get one life’.

Then, in Briony’s case, you write a bestseller that helps others cope with life’s biggest curveballs.

“One of the people who saw my video was a publisher,” Briony explains. “From that, she thought there was an opportunity for a book that could be really beautiful and helpful for other people going through a tough time.”

“The idea appealed to me immediately. I love writing and being able to turn the challenges and the trauma that I had been through into something that was helpful for others was a bonus. I said yes.”

While on her journey to recovery, Briony kept a daily journal which provided inspiration for her book Life is Tough, But So Are You.

Even on the worst days, she would look for ways to reframe the situation.

“One of the toughest moments was losing my hair, it felt like a real marker that I had become a cancer patient,” says Briony.

“My sister suggested ‘what if we reframe this?’ As the hair was falling out, I could instead look at it as meaning the medicine was working.”

Briony described this silver lining moment in her book as developing a newfound confidence that wasn’t linked to physical appearance.

While the book certainly encourages optimism while tackling life’s biggest hurdles, it also helps people realise it’s ok to falter.

“At first, I tried to be the world’s most positive cancer patient,” she says. 

“I soon realised that’s actually not very helpful, because you have to feel what you feel, and not suppress things.”

“But, at the same time, I figured if I had to go to hospital or do chemo anyway, I would try to make it a little bit more fun than it is.”

At the end of Term 3, Briony returned to All Saints to share her life experience via the school podcast. Mr Wallas’ bear hugs were exactly as she remembered them. 

“I just adored my time at All Saints,” says Briony. “I remember getting up every day and being excited to go to school. I also remember meeting Mr Wallas – we were among his early school captains.”

“He was creative, a writer, a great orator, but also sporty. I remember thinking, what a fabulous mix.”

Briony hopes to return to campus soon and share her story with students in person.

She also passes on her gratitude to All Saints Drama and Communication teacher Naomi Middlebrook, and former English teacher Sherree Dwyer, for inspiring a love of literature and the arts that has lasted a lifetime.

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