This article was submitted by Kylie Slack, a Masters students in Mental Health Nursing.


2010 saw a few changes in my life. I found I had breast cancer. Wow – I was in for a rough year or two. I set my mind to getting through that and had approximately eight operations, six rounds of chemotherapy, lost my hair (lucky I had a good looking head), gained two new little appendages and off I went back to my life. My mantra: get up, get dressed and draw on your eyebrows and lipstick.

I kind of thought life would all be the same. I recall telling the surgeon I didn’t have time for a major operation, I had a meeting. Looking back, I can see how foolish I was, worrying about a silly meeting instead of my needs. It’s then you know you need to change – it becomes necessary, and you start building a new ‘me’.

So I set about changing my life. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t go ahead and do any great or marvellous things, but I did set my mind to learning the trumpet – who knew how noisy they could be, or that lipstick generally gets all over you when you play a trumpet? Picture red lips, mouth and trumpet mouthpiece. Yep, great idea that one.


Editor’s Note: If you’re struggling to picture this, we’ve provided the above to assist you.


Change kept happening to me in the following years. I swapped jobs – well, actually, I had a redundancy and couldn’t work for a government agency for a certain period of time, so I became a school chaplain. How do you go from a corporate nursing role to a chaplain? You get up, put your shorts and joggers (and lipstick) on and lend an ear to troubled kids and make a lot of breakfasts for them.

During this time, a 14-year-old told me he wanted to learn to read. What a terrible thing to grapple with! It became clear that I should become a teacher, or so I thought. So off I went and did a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning and hung out in the world of teenagers and special needs kids for a year or two. My trumpet came in handy during my sojourn into education and I would belt out “Happy Birthday” to young people on their birthdays.

Education is the epitome of change. Every day you are challenged to grow and learn – not to be afraid – and it is a good thing. I didn’t realise the inner strength I possessed until one of  my lesson plans was falling apart before my eyes and kids were pretending to shoot me and ‘farting’ in class.

Somehow in the midst of this, I found I actually wanted to work with young people who had mental health issues, so I started my Masters of Mental Health Nursing. I’ve been working in a rural mental health facility for over twelve months, and love the variety and challenges. How do you change from teaching to mental health? Well, you get up put on your lipstick (yep, it’s critical) and you meet young people in their time of need.

I don’t play the trumpet so often anymore. I think it was a crutch to get me through a period of change, but I still have it out ready, just in case I get another crazy idea to make another change to my life.

I have changed a lot. I am not an ostrich with my head in the sand – I am a ‘take me as you find me’ kind of woman. The new me, lipstick included. And if you ‘fart’ in my mental health sessions, I am okay with that. Just don’t shoot me!

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