We’ve already featured Judi Adams this month, chair of the Hobart Committee for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. She is an inspirational woman, to say the least. Today, we’d like to introduce her equally-awesome colleague, Tasmanian Janelle McMillan. This is her story.

Breast Cancer - Janelle McMillan
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Janelle McMillan ~ National Breast Cancer Foundation

Fundraising for Breast Cancer

by Janelle McMillan

My name is Janelle McMillan. I’m an artist in Hobart and I use my computer to create bright, colourful, fun and unique artworks. I have a physical disability called Cerebral Palsy which causes my body movements to be uncontrolled. I am in a wheelchair and I am also non verbal. Technology has allowed me to operate a computer system tailored to my needs.

Breast Cancer - Computer Artist
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Janelle McMillan uses a special computer system to generate her artwork

At school 20 years ago, it was very hard to have a real conservation with anyone because I was non verbal. People were scared to have conservations with me; they wouldn’t understand me and I would get upset. One friend was in my Maths class during grades 9 and 10 in high school. We sat on the same table at our leaver’s dinner. We went to the same college, but we still didn’t really talk to each other.

Facebook Saves the Day!

That was until the invention of Facebook. We befriended each other, but still didn’t really talk until one day early last year my friend posted that she had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I started posting my artwork on her wall to cheer her up and sending her messages of support. She wrote back to me each time and the friendship blossomed from there.

She secretly arranged with my carer to bring me to a coffee shop to say thanks for my friendship. At that stage she had no hair from the chemotherapy and she showed me her bare head. It took everything I had not to cry in front of her. I got a boob hat knitted for her; she loved it. We’ve been to the movies together and she has been to visit me at home. Now we talk on Facebook most days and see each other when we can.

Computer Artwork by Janelle McMillan

I enjoy doing artwork on my computer because it makes me feel free. One day I came up with an artwork with a clothes line full of bras to support of my friend’s Breast Cancer and stuck it on Facebook for people to see. Someone said it would make a good fund raiser for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Breast Cancer - Artist Janelle McMillan
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Janelle McMillan with some of her Breast Cancer artwork

It got me thinking. Should I post it on some Breast Cancer support pages? I thought to myself… why not? So I did post the bra artwork on lots of different Facebook pages and got amazing support. I kept coming up with ideas for artworks in relation to Breast Cancer and posting them on Facebook. I found the National Breast Cancer Foundation to be most supportive of my artwork. They shared my art on their Facebook page too.

I created an artwork for my friend to celebrate the end of her major treatment for breast cancer. My artwork was about the emotional rollercoaster that my friend was experiencing: very dark days, horrible drugs, losing her hair and then coming out the other side of treatment.

Pink Lady Art Exhibition for Breast Cancer

It was soon after this artwork was done, I got a message from the Pink Lady Art Exhibition asking me to contribute. I chose the emotional rollercoaster artwork for the Pink Lady Art Exhibition and ended up selling the piece. My friend with Breast Cancer has inspired me to never die wondering!

I thought it would be good to do a fund-raiser with my artwork for all of the Aussie Pink Ladies, but felt I couldn’t do this on my own due to my disability. I got in touch with Judi Adams and she said she’d love to help me out. She has been doing fund-raisers for the National Breast Cancer Foundation for many years.

Over the journey I have achieved lots of wonderful goals, making my fund-raisers happen with Judi’s guidance. Judi got in touch with a graphic designer friend Desma Pacitto, who worked with me to design a calendar using my Breast Cancer artwork.

Breast Cancer - Calendars
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Fundriasing for Breast Cancer ~ calendars

I also decided to email sport clubs around Australia to request signed items to be auctioned on ebay. I got a good response from a couple of different clubs and before long had raised $750 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

I then emailed Monotone Art Printers in Hobart to get a quote to print my calendars. Jim Precival from Monotone Art Printers was very kind and he initially printed twelve Breast Cancer artworks on post cards and greeting cards at no cost for me to sell to people. My cards went on sale at two Bendigo Banks around the Hobart area before Mother’s Day.

Breast Cancer - Christmas Cards
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Now sold out, Janelle McMillan launched a range of Christmas cards

It Pays to Plan Big

An inspiring woman called Julia Sharwood, one of the managers at PlanBig, helped me get my plan out into the world through the PlanBig website, supported by Bendigo Bank. Julia and I have since become friends and she contacted Darren Greene at Mystique Sustainable Print in Melbourne to enquire about printing my Breast Cancer calendars.

When Darren and I communicated, he offered to print 900 of my Breast Cancer calendars at no cost to help my fund-raising for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

I did the Mother’s Day Classic in Hobart in my wheelchair with my friend, who is now in remission from Breast Cancer. Another friend of Julia’s, graphic designer Abby Woods, helped me get the calendars finished and printed in time to distribute during the walk.

Breast Cancer - Mothers Day Classic
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Janelle McMillan took part in the Mothers Day Classic for Breast Cancer

Everyone communicates with me through email or Facebook to get things done for my Breast Cancer fund-raisers. Most of the people haven’t even met me in person and that is very inspiring. I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved with helping me achieve my goals for the National Breast Cancer Foundation so far.

Even people with disabilities can help other people who are having a rough time in life.

Breast Cancer - Tasmanian Community Achievement Award
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Janelle McMillan receiving her Tasmanian Community Achievement Award

Note: Judi Adams nominated Janelle McMillan for the 2013 MAIB Disability Achievement Award (Tasmanian Community) and not surprisingly, she won. Read all about the recognition via the National Breast Cancer Foundation website. Since writing this piece, Janelle has already achieved so much more and will no doubt continue her wonderful fund-raising. Contact Janelle McMillan via email to assist her efforts and purchase her artwork. You can also follow her inspirational Facebook page Fairies of Pink Hope.

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